September 7, 2012

How Can I Get a Protection from Domestic Violence in Jacksonville

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.

If you are a victim of domestic violence or you have reason to believe that you are, in fact, in immediate danger of becoming the victim of domestic violence, then you can ask for protection by filing the proper petition with the court. The petition filed requires that you provide information as to what has occurred or will most likely occur that has caused and is causing you fear of the of the person. Once you file for the injunction or restraining order, a judge will review the petition to determine whether you have established enough grounds for a temporary injunction to be granted. If it is, then the other party will be served with the information and a hearing date will be provided to each of you. The injunction that is at first granted is temporary and you will have to go to court to receive a permanent injunction/restraining order.

Domestic violence includes: assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any other criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death to the petitioner by any of the petitioner's family or household members. If you have been a victim of one of these acts, then you must state in the petition what occurred and provide details as to the occurrence. If you believe that one of these things will most likely occur, unless you receive the injunction, then you must put in the petition why you believe the harm is going to occur if you do not get the injunction.

In the petition you need to provide as much detail as possible regarding threats, the history of you and the other party (whether you resided together, history of violence, etc.), whether you or family members have been previously harmed by the other party (also known at the Respondent since you are the Petitioner), state if the Respondent has ever threatened to kidnap you or your children (if you are seeking protection for both you and your kids or only your kids), whether there have been prior acts of violence against the children, prior police involvement should be provided, and any other details that can provide the judge with information as to why you are in fear and why an injunction is necessary to protect your from domestic violence acts by the Respondent.

For example, if you live with your children and your spouse and your spouse threatens to kidnap the children after he violently abused you, then you will want to allege the details regarding the abuse and the threats that he made regarding your children and whether he has previously done something similar in nature.
The more information you can provide, the easier it is for the judge to determine if you have met the threshold for receiving the injunction.

If a temporary injunction is granted, then you cannot dismiss it on your own, you still have to appear that scheduled hearing. It is important to follow through with the procedure so that everything is properly documented with the court so that you have the best chance at being protected through any harm or threats of harm that may occur.

If the injunction is granted and the Respondent tries to contact your or shows up somewhere that she/he is not supposed to, per the order, then you should immediately contact the police.

If you are interested in receiving additional information regarding this issue and/or you need legal representation regarding your domestic violence case, then you should speak with an experienced family law attorney.

Bookmark and Share

May 8, 2012

Florida Divorce: Why Custody Plan Evaluations Are Important

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

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.

Continue reading "Florida Divorce: Why Custody Plan Evaluations Are Important" »

May 3, 2012

Domestic Violence Can Impact Family and Unrelated Victims

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.

Ms. Muhammad had divorced her husband because of his allegedly abusive behavior towards her. Authorities maintain that Muhammad started killing random strangers as a cover up, with the ultimate goal of shooting his wife the same way, so that he could take custody of their three children. Muhammad has always claimed that he is innocent of the charges.

After suffering from incessant abuse and a the violence that surrounded her family, Ms. Muhammad has worked through her guilty feelings and is concentrating on caring for her three children during this emotional time. Muhammad’s first wife, Carol Williams, was also interviewed by King, and said she planned to visit Muhammad in prison with their son before the execution. You can read more about the interviews at Ex-wife of infamous 'D.C. Sniper' felt guilty about shootings.

Domestic violence is very dangerous behavior, and it this case is a tragic example of how far it can go if left unchecked. People who are in reasonable fear of being in imminent danger of domestic violence should take very action to protect themselves, including calling the police and taking out an injunction.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, please contact our firm to explore your legal options.

Bookmark and Share

February 17, 2012

Can Florida Parents Charged with Domestic Violence be Awarded Custody or Visitation Rights?


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.

If further violence does occur, the other party may still apply for an injunction for protection against domestic violence. If you are involved in a child custody or time-sharing battle, please contact our Jacksonville, Florida law firm for legal counsel.

August 30, 2011

A Formal Deterrent to Domestic Violence: Domestic Violence Injunction


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.

Bookmark and Share

August 17, 2011

The Underlying Cause of Parental Kidnapping: Domestic Violence.


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.

Florida Statute 787.03, Interference with Custody, makes it a felony of the third degree to remove a minor child from the custody of any lawful custodian. Any parent (with or without a court order) commits a felony if the parent “takes, detains, conceals, or entices away that minor…within or without the state with malicious intent to deprive another person of his or her right to custody of the minor. However, Florida law does recognize a defense if the fleeing spouse “was the victim of an act of domestic violence or had reasonable cause to believe that he or she was about to become the victim of an act of domestic violence.” For more information on custodial interference, see Florida Statute 787.03

Bookmark and Share

July 1, 2011

Florida Domestic Violence and Options for a Restraining Order

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.

In Jacksonville, Florida, to file for an injunction you must go to to the City Hall Annex located next to the Duval County Courthouse. You must file a petition for the injunction and if you are concerned for the safety of your children, you want to seek the injunction for yourself and for your children. Once you fill out the petition you meet with a caseworker that will then interview you to get additional information. The caseworker may then, based on his/her knowledge and experience, issue a temporary injunction and provide you with a court date. The petition and court date will then be served on the other party.

Once you have a court date, you should speak with a lawyer to find out your rights and options and how the proceeding works.

Bookmark and Share

May 16, 2011

Domestic Violence in Florida Divorce

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.
A recent Florida case involved such issues and the wife, while attending a final hearing on the divorce, was severely injured by her husband during the court proceeding. The judge, and most likely the wife, at the time did not know of the husband's strong propensity towards violence and did not have a bailiff in the chambers. Luckily for the wife, the husband was restrained by her own attorney, but not before she suffered a broken nose.

Bookmark and Share

April 27, 2010

Florida Common Law Marriage

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.

Bookmark and Share

April 7, 2010

Reclaiming Body Parts: Taking Back Gifts?

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.

Bookmark and Share

February 25, 2010

Evander Holyfield and Third Wife, Candi, Ask Dr. Phil to Help Them Avoid Divorce


Evander Holyfield was once the world heavyweight boxing champion. Now he is involved in another type of battle; this one is to save his third marriage from heading toward divorce. After a series of public foibles, Holyfield and his third wife, Candi, are scheduled to appear on the Dr. Phil show to discuss their faltering marriage.

In a statement, the couple said that they admired Dr. Phil’s “heartfelt approach” in helping couples in trouble. Dr. Phil is a former psychologist made famous by appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show. Several years ago Dr. Phil was awarded his own television talk show where he helps people deal with difficult times in their lives.

The Holyfield’s are expected to open up about their less-than-perfect private life, including how Holyfield struck his wife recently. Critics accuse Holyfield and his wife of seeking attention rather than real healing, and point out that an abusive relationship and a troubled marriage cannot be saved in a one hour television show.

While not everyone agrees with Holyfield’s method of trying to save his marriage, long-term private couple’s counseling is a positive step that may help save some marriages from divorce. If your marriage is past saving, please contact our Jacksonville, Florida law firm for legal counsel.

Find out more about the Holyfield’s appearance on the Dr. Phil show at Hide behind the sofa: The Holyfields are coming clean.

Bookmark and Share

February 11, 2010

California Man (Henry Lisowski) Allegedly Kills Estranged Wife (Rosa Lisowski) to Avoid Paying Child Support

PoliceCar.jpgHenry Lisowski allegedly threatened his ex-wife with murder two years before she disappeared in March of 2008. After several months of searching for the woman, police received a letter from Lisowski saying that his wife had died and that he had thrown the body in a dumpster. Prosecutors maintain that the man killed his wife because she was taking him to court for child support. Defense attorneys claim that his wife died from falling down the stairs and Lisowski hid the body because he was afraid her death would look suspicious.

At the time of Ms. Lisowski’s disappearance, Lisowski had been ordered to pay $1000 a month in child support, and a hearing had been scheduled to determine if he had underreported his income in order to avoid paying more. It later turned out that he had underreported his income by over one hundred percent.

When questioned by police about his wife’s disappearance, Lisowski claimed that she was a drug addict and believed that the drug cartel had gotten to her. Lisowski had fresh scratch marks across his cheek when he was questioned. He also expressed no interest in taking the children into his home.

If Lisowski is convicted, he could face life in prison. See more details of the murder trial at Prosecutor: OB man killed estranged wife over child support dispute.

If you need a prenuptial agreement or are considering a divorce or separation, please contact our Jacksonville, Florida law firm for legal counsel.

Bookmark and Share

January 10, 2010

Florida Project Documents Voices of Survivors of Domestic Abuse

Florida.jpgThe Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) recently completed a project intended to ensure that the voices of domestic violence sufferers remain central to their work. The project was designed to capture the insight provided by survivors in order to improve the efficacy of the Battered Women’s Movement. FCADV is dedicated to giving a voice to survivors of domestic abuse, so that they can share their stories and pass on lessons they have learned.

For the project, FCADV advocates interviewed numerous abuse survivors and advocates across Florida, including Jacksonville divorce attorneys. They have published a report with the substance of what they learned. The report includes stories from 106 females and one male victim of domestic violence. The participants were fairly evenly mixed as far as the types of communities they lived in and their ages. The majority of respondents had children living in their homes. Only 18% of respondents were employed full time.

The project revealed that the two most pressing needs of survivors are for affordable housing and for a more sensitive justice system, including better educated and fairer judges, family law attorneys, law enforcement and prosecution. The next two most pressing concerns were for jobs and affordable childcare. To read the full report, visit Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Survivor Listening Project Report.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, seek help immediately, and then contact contact our firm for compassionate legal counsel.

Bookmark and Share

December 29, 2009

Two Time Victim of Domestic Abuse Turns Her Life Around

College.jpgMechelle Seals had very low self esteem and very little experience with men when she met her first husband. After a year of marriage, however, a fight ended in the man throwing Ms. Seals to the ground and threatening their four month old daughter with a gun. Her second husband verbally abused her, and was convicted of sexually abusing her mentally handicapped daughter.

She recently explained why she stayed with both of these men, what prompted her to leave them and how she has turned her life around. She says that the abuse in her first marriage started very gradually, first with little insults and nags, then accusations of infidelity. The first time he hit her, he had been drinking and she forgave him – she believed she could help him change. The second time he got physical with her, he held a gun to their child’s head and told her to get out. She managed to escape with the child. They eventually divorced and Ms. Seals moved to Florida to get a fresh start.

About ten years later she met and married her second husband. She still had low self esteem, and she fell for the man because he paid attention to her. Soon after the wedding, the man began verbally abusing her and her now twelve year old daughter, who has an IQ of 65. A few months later, the girl knocked on a neighbor’s door and reported that her step father had been sexually abusing her. Ms. Seals divorced her husband while he was in jail awaiting trial.

Ms. Seals has since enrolled in the Southwest Florida College criminal justice program. She hopes to use her experiences to help other victims of domestic violence. She says that her self esteem is very high, but she understands why women go back to their abusers; “We, as women, still have a sense of love for our abusers and that’s hard to shut off.” Find out more Ms. Seal’s journey to healing from domestic violence at Mechelle left two men who hurt her child.

If you are a victim of abuse, please seek help immediately and then contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

Bookmark and Share

December 28, 2009

Charlie Sheen’s Wife Ready to Separate after Celebrity’s Christmas Arrest

DivorceWar.jpgFamous actor Charlie Sheen was arrested on Christmas day for an alleged assault on his wife, Brooke Mueller. But Sheen’s manager has told reporters that the couple is working out their differences amicably and has no plans to divorce. Other sources have reported that Mueller wants a separation. She has taken out a restraining order against her husband, and was recently seen vacationing without him. But she is also reportedly under a lot of pressure to change her story of the events on Christmas day; Sheen has a lot to lose and could face prison time if convicted.

The holidays can be a particularly stressful time for couples who are already not getting along. Of course, violence is never the answer – it is a crime. Sheen is entitled to his day in court. If he is found guilty of the domestic abuse charges, his fans can only hope that he gets the counseling he needs to stop abusing his partner(s). Read more about the arrest and the conflicting stories about a possible divorce at Charlie Sheen Doesn’t Want a Divorce.

If you have been a victim of domestic violence, please seek help immediately, and then contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

Bookmark and Share

December 22, 2009

Domestic Abuse; Why do Some Women Return to the Person Who Battered Them?

Divorce2.jpgMany people wonder why an abused woman would return to her abusive partner after leaving. According to therapists who treat such couples, reconciliation is quite common. Steve Stosny, the founder of CompassionPower, an anger and violence management program that treats individuals convicted of domestic abuse, discussed the phenomenon in an interview recently.

According to Stosny, victims of domestic abuse will leave their partner out of fear, anger, or retribution. But once those strong feelings start to fade, they feel guilt, shame, and anxiety – and those feelings can send them right back to their abusive partner. There is an emotional bond that is hard to break. Once the victim returns, there is often a honeymoon phase where the abuser apologizes and promises never to lose his temper again. But without therapy, the honeymoon doesn’t last.

Other professionals point to fear of change as a reason why a woman wouldn’t leave. A wealthy woman might not want to lose her lifestyle and for a poor woman, leaving might mean she has no way to support herself. In other cases, the man guilts the woman into staying by saying he will kill himself if she leaves.

All of the professionals agree that much counseling is needed for both parties to heal. They also agree that it is unusual for a couple with an abusive past to successfully reunite without falling back into abuse, but it can happen if the couple goes through intensive counseling. Find out more about why abused women go back to their abusers at Why some women go back to their abusers.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, please seek help immediately, and then contact our firm for expert, compassionate, legal counsel.

Bookmark and Share

December 15, 2009

Orlando, Florida – Tiger Woods Car Accident Alleged to Have Been Sparked by Domestic Dispute

Confidential.jpgTiger Woods has cancelled at least three scheduled meetings with the Florida Highway Patrol to discuss the car accident he was involved in early Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving. He is not required by Florida law to talk to police about a traffic accident under investigation. But he has spoken to reporters in an attempt to dispel rumors that the accident happened in the middle of a domestic dispute with his wife, Elin Nordegren.

According to a prominent Hollywood news website, TMZ, the fight was sparked by Woods’ alleged affair with another woman, Rachel Uchitel, who has denied the relationship. Woods and Ms. Nordegren started fighting after the National Enquirer printed a story about his alleged affair with Ms. Uchitel. He reportedly told a friend that Ms. Nordegren attacked him during the argument, scratching his face and chasing him out of the house and down the driveway with a golf club.

Some have speculated that he is putting off meeting with police to allow the scratches on his face to heal so that his wife will not be arrested for domestic violence. Florida law does allow police to intervene in a spousal abuse case against the wishes of the parties involved.

But in his public statement, Woods stated that “the only person responsible for the accident is me.” The official police report reveals that alcohol was not a factor in the accident, and states that Ms. Nordegren broke the back window of the car with a golf club in order to free Woods from the car.

Ms. Uchitel responded to the rumors of an affair by saying that “despite it being completely untrue, it still must have certainly caused some problems at home.” You can read more about the accident and what allegedly led up to it at Tiger Woods Talks of Mystery Crash for The First Time.

A suspected affair can often spark an argument that leads to divorce. If your marriage is in trouble, please contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

Bookmark and Share

December 10, 2009

Study Finds that Without Community Support, Low Income Abused Women are Likely to Return to Abuser

SadWoman.jpgA recent study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly paints a bleak picture for low income women who are subject to abuse. Even those who seek help for domestic violence issues suffer from depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and have to deal with stressful issues like child custody and child support, unemployment and finding affordable housing. Their situation has driven many of these women to return to their abusive partner.

The study points out that most domestic violence programs are focused on getting the woman away from her abuser and starting the legal proceedings to protect her and legally dissolve the relationship if necessary. Very few offer counseling, guidance or follow up to see how the women are doing after they leave. The researchers recommend that programs be offered for these women that provide housing opportunities, job training, transportation and child care so that they do not feel forced to return to their abusive partner because they have nowhere else to go. You can read more about the study findings at Nancy Hengeveld: Without support, battered women often return to their abusers.

If you are involved in an abusive relationship, please seek help for yourself, and then contact one of our Family Law Experts for compassionate legal counsel.

Bookmark and Share

December 8, 2009

Spring Hill, Florida – Desperate Father (Samad Nesser) Tries to Prevent Ex-wife from Taking his Son to France

Plane.jpgSamad Nesser has tried every legal avenue to prevent his eleven year old son from being taken to France to stay with his mother and her new husband. According to Nesser, his ex-wife has allowed his son to be abused by the new husband, and suffers from sleeplessness and chest pains whenever he returns home from staying with them. Nesser is an American citizen, but his wife is not. The husband, a French citizen, used to live in Palm Beach, Florida, where he was the subject of a restraining order after allegedly breaking into his girlfriend’s home and hitting and pushing her and her elderly mother to the floor. Nesser claims that this same man locked his son in an attic and threatened to kill him.

Judge Daniel Merrit Jr. has refused to grant requests for a guardian ad litem for Nesser’s son. A guardian ad litem would spend time with the child to determine what that child wants and what is in his best interest. Merrit has also refused to let the child testify in court, and the records of the child’s counseling sessions have not been admitted due to what Nesser claims are stalling tactics on the part of his ex-wife’s attorney. At present, there is no way for Nesser to stop his ex-wife from taking their child back to France with her.

According to Florida law, when two parents have a child in Florida, they maintain their rights no matter where they might move later on. Those rights are recognized regardless of citizenship. If you are involved in a child custody battle, please contact our firm for legal assistance.

You can read more about Samad Nesser and his battle to protect his son at Concerned father: Don't let my son go.

August 25, 2009

Florida Parental Rights, Termination and Child Support

In Jacksonville, Florida, as a family law attorney, I receive questions about terminating parental rights. This is not an easy process since there are many protections in place for parents. I will probably do a series of blogs on this topic in order to cover each area, but we will start with the consent and agreement of both parties.
If a parent would like to terminate his/her parental rights, then there are certain things that must be in place. The following would be required:
1. There is another person to take the role of mother/father both emotionally and financially.
2. The parent is doing so knowingly with full understanding and willfully.
3. The termination is in the best interest of the child.

If these things are met, then the Court may grant termination of parental rights. The difficulty is, this does not alleviate child support that may be due from years of nonpayment. If a parent owes child support arrearages (back child support), then the termination of their rights does not alleviate or diminish the back child support to be paid.
The only time that can go away is if the other parent (non-terminating) is willing to forgive any and all arrearage. However, if the payments were through the state's Department of Revenue, then even agreeing does not end the State's interest in collecting that money on behalf of the Child.
If this is something that you are interested in pursuing, it is best to work with an attorney on this matter whether your are the one terminating or the one requesting termination.

July 17, 2009

The Poor Economy, Divorce & Domestic Violence

domestic_violence.gifWritten by Whitney R. Lonker, Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.,
In my family law practice in Jacksonville, Florida, I also practice criminal defense. I have seen an increase in the need for cross practicing in these areas with the poor economy and divorce as the issue of domestic violence is popping up more and more in my practice. Divorce is stressful enough in itself but when its coupled with a bad housing market and families facing foreclosure and unemployment, oftentimes, tempers blow. Of course, violence is never the answer and can only heighten the problems. Domestic Violence can lead to arrest, incarceration, loss of finances, probationary tasks such as batterers intervention programs and/or anger management programs. Some of these programs are 26 weeks and an expensive cost for attending. If things are getting to that level in your home or in the home of someone you know, help is out there. Please seek help at The Hubbard House if you live in Duval County or Quigley House if you live in Clay County, Florida. Our firm has a vast experience in handling domestic violence matters in both the family courts arena as well as defending those accused of domestic violence. Please call on us for advice and for the help you need at 904-355-8888.

Bookmark and Share

April 10, 2009

Florida Divorce In A Bad Economy

In Jacksonville, Florida, like the rest of the nation, parties are finding it difficult to make the final split and afford a divorce attorney to deal with important issues. Issues that can arise in a Florida Divorce are: the dvision of assets and debts; calculating alimony; child support payments; child custody; domestic abuse; and the valuation and division of the family business.
Some suggestions in divorcing in a bad economy include finding a divorce attorney in Jacksonville, Florida who will work with you on attorney's fee payments, who will provide a free consultation or who may engage in a limited appearance on your behalf to draft and file your pleadings or to serve subpoenas or summonses. There are many creative ways to secure a good divorce or family law attorney in Florida in the waning economy. Be certain to inquire about ways to ease the payment and the process when speaking with a family law attorney.
Divorces can get expensive, but they don't necessarily have to. Be savvy and ask questions. This is a great time to buy a house or a car. Shop for a divorce attorney in the same way as you would those items. You will not be disappointed when you get the same good deal.

April 3, 2009

Florida Domestic Violence: Men Can Be Victims Too

Jacksonville, Florida and the rest of the country are feeling the stress of the economy. Times are tough, which makes people scared and angry. Domestic violence and tempers are on the rise in Jacksonville, Florida, and all across the nation. But it isn't necessarily men who are doing all of the battering. More and more men are becoming victims of domestic violence and they are no longer taking it "like a man". When anyone experiences violence against his/her person, it is imperative to seek help immediately. Whether that help comes in the immediate form of calling the police or subsequent to the abuse in fleeing to a domestic violence center , a hotel, or to an attorney, help is essential.

Ron Artest, Former Indiana Pacers star, was beaten and abused by his girlfriend when she struck him in the head. Artest called the police and the girlfriend was arrested. Many times men are afraid to call the police for help as the stereotype is to arrest the man when a domestic situation occurs. Men need to be encouraged to seek help whenever domestic violence is perpetrated against them.

In Florida, an injunction for protection against domestic violence can be issued and/or criminal charges can be filed against the batterer. There are provisions for protection for all and that protection should be sought before taking the law into your own hands.

March 20, 2009

Florida Family Protection: Handling DCF Actions

In Florida, the Department of Children and Families (DCF)is designed to protect children. The goal is not to shatter the home, but to protect the safety and welfare of the children. In its protective role, DCF can act in more of a prosecutorial manner and rather than seeing an incident as a possible accident, they become more accusatory in nature.
Some of the consequences of DCF involvement is that they have the ability to remove children from your home pending an investigation and during the completion of a case plan, which could take from 6 months to a year, or more. If the case plan is not properly completed, then DCF has the ability to petition the courts to declare the child(ren) dependent on the state, terminate parental rights and place the child(ren) in foster care or up for adoption.
Our firm has represented numerous parents and grandparents who have faced DCF charges for putting a child or children in harms way. The reality is that DCF can have an awful impact and disruption on your family and representation is important.

February 23, 2009

Florida Divorce and Injunctions, What's Your Function?

In Florida divorces, Injunctions are prevalent. A Florida Injunction can be handled by your Florida Divorce Lawyer. There are specific criteria that must be met before a court can enter a permanent injunction. Section 741.30 of the Florida Statutes lays out exactly what must be argued to have a temporary injunction entered as a permanent injunction. The statute says that the petitioner must have been a victim of domestic violence OR have reasonable cause to believe that he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of any act of domestic violence. The Elements which must be proven at a hearing before the Circuit Court are as follows:
1. Must be between family or household members.
2. The petitioner must claim to have been the victim of DV or is in fear of imminent DV attack. 3. The sworn petition shall allege the existence of such domestic violence and shall include the specific facts and circumstances.
4. Jurisdiction: Where petitioner currently resides, temporarily resides, where respondent resides, where domestic violence occurred.
There are specific ramifications of a temporary injunction being made permanent. If the petition is granted the respondent will be required to complete a 26 week Batterers' Intervention Program (and pay for it) if (a) the respondent has willfully violated the temporary injunction or (2) has ever been found guilt of a crime involving violence (batteries) or threat of violence (assaults). You should contact a Florida Family Law attorney regarding your needs for an injunction or to defend against allegations made against you.

February 18, 2009

Economic Storm Hits Florida Divorces

1060924_rail_2.jpg In Florida, rising tides of economic instability play a dramatic role in divorce. During their pending divorce, couples are remaining under the same roof due to the housing market. Divorce lawyers recognize that the marital home has transformed from an asset to a liability. However, the idea of splitting the debt associated with the home can be very appealing.

Divorce is affected by the economy because it plays a roled in factoring spousal support, debt division, living arrangements and tax consequences of the parties. In a Florida divorce, the parties assets and liabilities are divided equally, the marital home is the major asset in most cases. The slow market has created difficulties for the parties because most of the time, the marital home has not sold by the time the divorce is being finalized. With difficult time, often there are difficult questions, divorce is no different. Questions range from: Who is going to be responsible for the mortgage? to Who gets to live in the home while it is on the market? Hard times need creative solutions,just as Congress, and divorce lawyers can help divorcing parties navigate through the muddy waters of the present market.

Bookmark and Share

January 26, 2009

How can I get alimony? Florida Alimony Statute

Florida Statute 61.08 provides the rules for receiving alimony. However, only the courts and many lawsuits have created the boundaries for what are considered short-term and long-term marriages. As such, many people feel that if they are married and their spouse provided for them, then they are entitled to alimony in some capacity.

If you have ever dealt with child support issues or other family law matters, then you may know that the amount in child support is determined by a calculation and the numbers don't really change one way or another because it's really a black and white issue. However, that is not true with alimony, and there are many factors that can be considered. However, the focus here is not in the aspect of determining whether you'll receive alimony, but just to clarify a few terms that you probably could not find on your own.

In first determining alimony, your legal representative and/or the court will evaluate the length of the marriage. In Florida, a long-term marriage is considered anything over 15 years of marriage and a short-term marriage is anything up to 10 years. Many people fall within a gray area, which the court has the right to use its discretion in determining and that is the 11-15 year marriages. It is important to realize that the court does have discretion to rule in accordance with the lifestyle of the parties, the work dynamic of the parties, and many other aspects. Also, since Florida does not recognize an equation for the process, often each judge has his/her own way of determining how, if any, alimony should be determined.

Bookmark and Share

January 7, 2009

It Sounded Like “Joint Custody, Why Isn’t It in Florida? - Explanation of Florida "Custody" Laws


For many years, the courts in Florida have embraced the idea that a child of divorced parents should enjoy the input and direction from both parents, not just the parent who has “custody.” So, under Chapter 61, Florida Statutes, the court will typically require that the divorcing parents have “…shared parental responsibility.” Sometimes this is loosely referred to as, “joint parental responsibility,” or at least what that’s what the parents “hear” when they hear “shared parental responsibility. But this does not mean “joint custody.” Joint custody is where each parent has “custody” of the child for roughly equal lengths of time. This is not usually favored by Florida courts, as it often becomes impractical, especially if the parents live too far apart, or even in different school districts, much less different cities. Also, as children grow, their circle of friends and social interests expand, which can be compromised by their going back and forth between parents like a ping-pong ball. So, “shared parental responsibility” or even “joint parental responsibility” is not the same thing as “joint custody.”
With “shared parental responsibility,” both parents keep full parental rights and full parental responsibilities. Section 61.046, Florida Statutes. This also means that the parents must consult and confer with each other on matters concerning the welfare and best interests of the child, especially on major decision. When it comes to medical care or education, these decisions should be made jointly, if possible, after the parents have consulted each other. However, sometimes a court will split these areas of responsibility between the parents. Section 61.13(2), Florida Statutes.

In a typical divorce case, the child’s “primary residence” is deemed to be with one parent, who is granted the “primary residential care” of the child. This parent is usually referred to as the “custodial parent.” Sections 61.046(3), 61.13(2)(b) 2.a., Fla. Statutes. Not surpisingly, the other parent is usually called the “noncustodial parent.” Section 61.046(10), Florida Statutes. But none of this labeling changes the basic fact that the parents usually share in the parental rights and responsibilities for the child.

Bookmark and Share