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Child Custody and Child-Related Issues 

Henderson Franklin’s marital and family law attorneys help families with child custody and other child-related issues that arise during a divorce. These issues include developing a parenting plan and timesharing schedule that works best for parents and their children and determining the appropriate amount of child support. In some cases, there may be substance abuse issues with one of the parents that require professional mental health evaluations and safety plans for children. In other situations, a parent may seek to move to a different geographic area, and our attorneys have experience handling relocation trials.

Our Approach

We strive to help our clients minimize the unintended emotional damage to children and families that often occurs in these delicate child-related matters. We encourage settlement through mediation or other alternative dispute resolution where possible, including the use of mental health experts to intervene in some situations. There are always times when litigation is required, and in those situations, you can be confident knowing that our experienced attorneys zealously represent our clients to make sure their voices are heard and their children are protected. Our goal is to help clients maintain healthy relationships with their children both during and after the divorce process.

Understanding Child Custody Cases

Courts will enter a parenting plan that is in the children’s best interests by evaluating several key factors. In Florida, parental responsibility for minor children is to be shared by the parents unless a specific finding is made that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the children. It is the public policy in the State of Florida that the children should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents following a divorce. There is no presumption that children should spend more time with their mother or their father after the divorce.

The list of criteria considered by courts in determining the appropriate parenting and time-sharing plan for families are set forth in Florida Statutes Sec. 61.13. Some of the key factors are:

  • A parent’s capacity and disposition to facilitate and encourage a close relationship between the other parent and the children
  • Whether a parent will delegate his or her parenting responsibilities to a third party after the divorce
  • A parent’s capacity to determine and consider the needs of the children rather than the parent’s desires
  • How long the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity
  • Each parent's physical and mental health
  • The stability of each home
  • The geographic viability of a plan
  • Any history of domestic violence in a home

In evaluating and identifying our clients’ strengths in each of these areas, our family law attorneys help our clients focus on the importance of these factors and abilities.

Parenting Plans and Time-Sharing Schedules

In divorce and paternity cases, courts require that parents enter written parenting plans. The written plans must include the following:

  • A detailed description of how the parents will share responsibility for daily tasks associated with the children’s upbringing
  • A specific time-sharing schedule detailing when the children will spend time with each parent
  • A designation as to which parent will be responsible for all forms of health care
  • A provision that either parent may consent to mental health treatment for the children
  • A designation as to which parent will be responsible for school-related matters
  • Which parent’s address will be used for school-boundary determination
  • A description of methods and technologies the parents will use to communicate with the children

Child Support

Our marital and family law attorneys handle child support issues that arise in divorce and paternity cases involving minor and dependent adult children. Florida has a statutory system for determining the appropriate amount of child support, which depends upon how many children there are, how many overnights the children spend with each parent and each parent’s net income. All child support orders must also include a provision for health insurance for minor children when the cost is reasonable and accessible. The cost of child support is factored in when calculating the appropriate amount of child support. It is also necessary to apportion any non-covered medical, dental and prescription medication expenses of children to both parents.

Modifications and Enforcement Actions

There are times when child support and parenting plans need to be modified. While it is our goal to design an initial plan that works well for our clients long-term, our attorneys are available to discuss a modification of the parenting plan or amount of child support being paid when a substantial change in circumstances has arisen. Our lawyers frequently handle modification (or post-judgment) actions and represent our clients in dealing with post-divorce issues of support, timesharing, and relocation. We can also assist our clients with enforcement of previous agreements and orders of the court.

Adoption

Our child support and custody attorneys routinely handle adoption matters, including step-parent and family adoptions, and we are available to assist with the termination of parental rights and adoption of minor children. We help our clients understand the rights and responsibilities of adoption under Florida law to ensure this emotional process is carried out under the best possible circumstances.

Richard Akin concentrates his litigation practice representing local municipalities, businesses, insurance companies, and individuals in civil, employment and tort claims, including constitutional claims, premises liability, product liability, and motor vehicle accidents. He also represents businesses and individuals in administrative litigation, including licensing and permitting matters.

Richard also represents many Florida school boards (before both administrative and civil courts) in tort and special education matters under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act, and representation in connection with Constitutional matters under the 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendments. 

Richard is admitted to practice in all Florida state courts, the United States District Court for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Florida, as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

In 2020, Naples Illustrated named Richard a "Top Lawyer" in the field of Administrative/Regulatory Law.

After graduating magna cum laude from law school, Richard worked for a Tallahassee law firm for three years. He relocated to Southwest Florida to join Henderson Franklin in 2012 and resides in Fort Myers with his wife and children. When he is not working, Richard enjoys spending time outdoors and is an avid fly fisherman.

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Professional and Civic Affiliations

Richard is a member of the Trial Lawyers Section and Young Lawyers Section of the Florida Bar.

We have grown from two forward-thinking partners to become the largest locally based, full-service regional firm serving the needs of our clients throughout Southwest Florida.

The Firm’s main office is a modern five-story building in the heart of downtown Fort Myers designed to create an efficient, yet comfortable environment for our attorneys, staff and clients. We are across the street from the Lee County Justice Center and two blocks from the Federal Courthouse. Our Bonita Springs office provides a wide variety of services including Real Estate, Litigation and Estate Planning to our clients in southern Lee County and the Naples area. The Naples office, centrally located adjacent to US 41/Tamiami Trail North, has panoramic views of Naples and offers free parking to serve individuals and business owners in Collier County.

We believe it is very important to understand the tenets that Henderson Franklin follows in our relationships with our clients. These tenets are how we want to be judged, and what we want used as criteria in selecting us for legal representation. Henderson Franklin holds itself to the highest standards of our profession. Our goal is to continually demonstrate the Firm’s capabilities and experience, and to build and maintain trust between our clients and us.

The only result that we will accept is the one that our clients expect us to deliver.

To meet those expectations, Henderson Franklin will always:

  • Provide professional, competent and effective legal service that will fulfill our clients’ requirements and achieve the desired goal or outcome at a fair and reasonable cost
  • Adhere to the highest ethical standards of the legal profession
  • Develop and hold dear the relationships that the firm has established with its clients and foster trust and confidence
  • Encourage cooperation, collaboration and support between the different practice areas in the Firm for the benefit of our clients
  • Recognize and respond quickly to any opportunity that could be of benefit to our clients, or to any threat that could be detrimental to a planned outcome
  • Advance the interests of the legal profession both within the Firm and outside in the public view
  • Contribute to the well-being of the people in the communities in which we live and work

Henderson Franklin continues to uphold the principles of our founders and our commitment to the communities of Southwest Florida that we serve. This strict adherence to excellence, high ethical standards and serving the interests of our clients is the cornerstone of our practice.

Duke Named Chairman of the Evangelical Christian School Board of Directors

Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A., is pleased to announce that Business Litigation Attorney  Jarred Duke has been named Chairman of the Evangelical Christian School (“ECS”) Board of Directors. Founded in 1973, ECS is a private, college preparatory school that focuses on education from a biblical worldview. Today, ECS services families as the largest private school in Southwest Florida, with more than 1,100 students from preschool through 12th grade. Duke, along with his wife Jacey, graduated from ECS in 2006.

Duke represents individuals and businesses in complex disputes, such as real estate litigationconstruction litigation, breaches of contract, partnership and shareholder disputes, breaches of fiduciary duty, trust and estate litigation, and other business torts. He also has significant experience in helping clients comply with Florida’s lien laws and collection actions. 

Duke is the Social Chair of the Lee County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division and is a member of The Florida Bar’s Young Lawyers, Business Law, Entertainment, Arts & Sports, Real Property, Probate & Trust, and Labor and Employment Law sections. 

Duke is a Lee County native. He received his undergraduate degree from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2010 and his law degree from New York University School of Law in 2014.

Duke may be reached at  or by phone at 239-344-1327.