Articles Posted in Domestic Violence / Injunctions

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Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney

Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

abuse-264x300.jpgDealing with a domestic violence issue can be challenging and understanding the legal process for getting an injunction or restraining order to protect your from the domestic violence in Jacksonville, Florida can be key. The process does require the filing of a petition by the individual that is the victim of the violence. There are certain criteria for filing and the victim should seek immediate shelter either with a friend, family member or through the Hubbard House or other local domestic violence shelters. The Duval County Clerk of Court website has forms that can be filled out before going downtown to apply for an injunction at the domestic violence department located in the Duval County Courthouse downtown.

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Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

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First, the Florida legislature changed child custody to “primary timesharing parent” in October, 2008. However, since most of us are familiar with child custody and custody issues, this article will still address the issue as the historic term, “custody.”
As a Jacksonville Florida family law and divorce attorney, dealing with paternity cases and divorces with children, custody issues often arise and the Social Evaluation is an important factor in helping the parents better understand the issues facing the children, and the evaluation assists the judge in having a better understanding and comprehension of what is in the best interest of the children. In Jacksonville and throughout Florida, the social investigation is a component of the case that may be used in its entirety by the judge or may give the judge a basis for a particular ruling. In addition, the evaluation can provide the parties with a stepping-stone or format by which to reach an agreement regarding visitation issues.

The social investigation is conducted by a professional, usually someone with a psychology and law background, and the investigator actually interviews the parents, speaks with witnesses, talks to the kids, look at school records, etc. Once the reviews and statements are completed, the evaluator writes a comprehensive report to demonstrate the findings for each parent, child, and the overall assessment of a parenting plan and recommendations for the court regarding any other matters that should be addressed (i.e. whether counseling is recommended, communication issues, etc.).

So how do you present well in the social investigation? Basically, parties are often concerned that they need to present themselves in a certain light to impress the investigator. However, most of the individuals handing these matters can tell when a party is putting on a show. The idea is not to be fake or phony, but to present your concerns for the children, explain your relationship with the children, and truly identify your wants and needs and the children’s wants and needs before the interview. Being genuine with the investigator is beneficial because it allows the investigator to truly determine any family issues that may need to be addressed, the impact the divorce/separation is actually having on the children and the like. The reason for the investigation is not to berate the parents, but to simply identify what may be in the best interest of the children in the present and in the future.

Extend a mental olive branch to the other party. During your interview with the evaluator, do not destroy the other parent with disparaging remarks. Describe the parts of parenting that the other parent does well and be honest in your comments about the children’s relationship with their other parent. Then share the things that do concern you about the other party, or about the separation of the children. You do not have to make it sound like everyone is great, you’re getting divorced there were issues in the home, so being real about the situation can be helpful in reaching the right conclusion for your case.

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Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

Ammo.jpgDomestic violence issues in Florida and throughout the country can be seen in even the most heinous of crimes. Sometimes, the domestic violence can be a precursor for violence on others, including innocent, unrelated victims. A recent case is the much publicized case involving Jennifer Hudson’s family, but a case that struck many of us throughout the country, the sniper shootings in Virginia, also started with domestic violence. Mildred Muhammad, ex-wife of DC Sniper John Allan Muhammad, gave an interview to Larry King the night before her husband was to be executed for his crimes at a Virginia state prison. Muhammad left 10 dead in a shooting spree that his ex-wife believes was destined to end with her as its final victim.

Ms. Muhammad said she felt very guilty about the victims of her ex-husband’s rampage, which left millions of DC residents fearful of going out in public. She claims that she had done “everything I knew how to do” to bring Mohammad’s violent and abusive nature to the attention of authorities, but it wasn’t enough. And she has expressed feelings of shame for not realizing that his violent behavior would extend beyond her, to affect other people. Like many victims of domestic violence, Ms. Muhammad’s guilt lingers for her inaction, but domestic violence by another does not require the fault of the other spouse or victim, simply behaviors of violence that are so easily exposed by a trigger to the violent person.

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In the state of Florida, if a parent has been convicted of misdemeanor, first degree or felony domestic abuse charges, the judge may rule that it is not in the child’s best interest to award custody or time-sharing rights to that parent. The same is true if the parent is in prison for a crime that would warrant terminating parental rights. If a parent is denied parental responsibility by the courts, he or she has the right to ask a judge to consider evidence that might prove that it would not harm the child to allow the parent custody or visitation rights. The court’s job is to look at the fitness of the parents and what is in the best interest of the child. As a Jacksonville divorce and family law attorney I often have parents ask whether they will be granted time-sharing (visitation) or if they have a chance of getting majority time-sharing (custody). When evaluating this question, it is important to look at the historical nature of the family unit, the likelihood of the parent facilitating a good relationship with the child and the other parent, and multiple other factors. When there are reports, accusations or evidence of abuse in the family, then the question of custody is harder to answer because those factors will be considered by the court due to the interest in not putting the children in harm’s way.

If the parent has not been convicted of a domestic violence or child abuse offense, the judge will generally consider evidence of abuse, even if the accusing party has never filed an injunction for protection from domestic violence against them. The judge will use the evidence to determine what type of parental rights the alleged abuser is entitled to. The accused or convicted, may present evidence and testimony to dispute such accusations or to show the judge how things have changed since the incident occurred. If certain activities have been completed, including counseling, then the court may take that into consideration in determining whether there is still a propensity to commit violent acts.

If an abusive parent is awarded visitation rights, the other party may request that the visits be limited or supervised. It will be up to the judge to decide whether or not the abuser represents a risk to the child or the other parent that warrants supervised or restricted visitation. A neutral third party, like the Family Nurturing Center in Jacksonville, Florida, typically does supervised visitation. The center actually observes the visitations and records them for additional protection of the children. If supervised visitation or time-sharing is ordered and over time there are no issues, then the parent observing such time-sharing may ask the court to modify the time-sharing plan to stop the supervision, but the court will again evaluate the case based on the best interest of the child.

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Any person who is a victim of domestic violence or has reasonable belief to believe they will become a victim of domestic violence may apply to the Jacksonville Court for a Domestic Violence Injunction pursuant to Florida Statute 741.30. “Domestic violence” is defined by Florida Statute 741.28 as any “assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.” If the injunction is granted then the spouse (or other family member) cannot come with 500 feet of you; he/she must move out of the house and; they will be subject to criminal arrest for either violation. The initial injunction will be temporary (2 weeks), and then the court will schedule a hearing to decide whether the injunction will become permanent or dismissed.

A DV Injunction hearing is similar to a mini trial. The court establishes procedures, hears witness testimony and a court reporter is present. Constitutional rights are at stake at a DV Injunction hearing, so judges tend to be strict on the rules and procedures. The judge also has the power to make determinations on related issues such as child custody, support and visitation, and property. See Section 741.30, Florida Statutes.

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Parental kidnapping affects families across the nation. According to The United States Department of Justice, 200,000 children are victims of family abductions per year. Sadly, most people do not realize that domestic violence is the underlying cause in many cases.

When Jacksonville parents/ parents nationwide take their children in domestic violence cases, the kidnapping usually occurs in either of the following scenarios. In one scenario, the batterers take the children in order to harm their victims. In the other, the victims flee with their children in an effort to protect themselves and their children from the batterer’s violence.

Batterers will often use their children as a way to hurt or frighten their former spouse. For example, they may pursue custody or visitation litigation as a means of trying to control their former spouse. In addition, they may use the custody proceedings to obtain more information about their former spouse, to continue to monitor them or to perpetrate additional violence.

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Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney

Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

1155518_masks.jpgDomestic violence issues often lead to the victim seeking protection through a restraining order. In Florida, the restraining order is actually an injunction that establishes prohibitions on the parties communicating with one another and can put limitations regarding violence. The injunction is designed to protect the alleged victim from the offending party by placing geographical limitations, weapon possession and other limitations on the other party. When domestic violence is prevalent with both parties, then often both sides will file for an injunction against one another.

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Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney

Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

c1main.florida.divorce.wsvn.bcso.jpgDomestic violence in marriage can be a major cause for divorce and knowing you are safe is key to the livelihood of you and your children. If you fear abuse or other harm from your spouse, you should apply for a domestic violence injunction with the court. In addition, in going through a divorce with someone that is violent, you should let your attorney know and the judge know that you are in fear for your safety in the presence of your spouse. If the judge is aware of the danger, then the judge can take the proper steps in insuring your safety while you are going through divorce hearings where you and your spouse are in the same room. The judge can have a bailiff sit-in on the proceedings to restrain the spouse if that spouse becomes violent.

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Florida has not recognized Common Law Marriage since 1968. In 1960, only 460,000 couples identified themselves as living together without marriage, according to CBS News. In 2007, USA Today reported that 6.4 million people were living as a couple out of wedlock.
In Florida, if you are living with your significant other and share a house payment, vehicles and debt, then there are options for you. The best thing to do is speak with a lawyer about protecting yourself from what could be a disaster if things do not end-up happily ever after.
If you previously lived in a state that recognizes Common Law Marriage, of which there are only 11, then Florida still recognizes your status as “married.” However, for those of you entering into a “moving in together” portion of your relationship, be certain to speak with someone about protecting yourself and your partner from future disaster. None of us want to think the worse of our partners, but at least if a marriage does not work you have the law to protect you from all debt falling on you. Until the State of Florida decides this is a growing matter that needs to be addressed, options are the key to your future success and your present comfort.

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DivorceBattle.jpg Recently, a Long Island doctor donated his kidney to his wife to save her life. Eight years and one extra-marital affair later, the doctor demanded the return of his kidney or $1.5million in compensation in their divorce lawsuit. His claims are presuming that his kidney will always be his property, and that this property was “on loan” to his wife.

In California, a man attempted to cut out the breast implants he bought for his ex-girlfriend. He asserts that he was trying to recover what rightfully belonged to him, since he paid for the augmentation. The ex-girlfriend suffered six stab wounds; the scorned lover is being prosecuted for attempted murder.

I published an article about compensating people who contribute body parts for the advancement of science and medicine, entitled Stealing What’s Free: Exploring Compensation to Body Parts Sources for Their Contribution to Profitable Biomedical Research. In general, these contributions are considered gifts: the source does not get compensated, and does not get the body parts back. In analyzing the two headline-making stories above, I would fathom a guess that these guys are out of luck. The intent of donating the kidney and funding the breast augmentation was to give a gift–once given, it can’t be taken back. From the reports I’ve read, I would be shocked if a court ordered these women to undergo surgery to return the gifts.