Family Lawyers & Therapists Work Together on Divorce

family lawyers and therapists

Picture for a moment the following Florida collaborative divorce scenario. We’re inside a Bay Area law office. Two people who have decided to dissolve their marriage due to irreconcilable differences sit across from each other at a table. Each is flanked by family lawyers and therapists. The nervousness is palpable.

The soon to be ex-husband repeatedly sips from an over sized cup of coffee; the nearly ex-wife taps her index finger on the mahogany table in an endless percussion. The therapists and lawyers begin the meeting by stating what their clients hope to achieve, and the mood in the room changes to one of acceptance.

Divorce is not a lovely process by any means, but collaborative divorce proceedings can lessen the painful journey, says St. Petersburg therapist KathyDan Moore, LMFT. You can open a tab to her page by holding the Ctrl key and clicking here. This is not a courtroom; no judge presides with the gavel at the ready. Others are not deciding the fate of these plaintiffs. They entered into this marriage contract on their own terms, and they will now dissolve it. They have the control. This is the main benefit of collaborative divorce.

After all the arguments and impasse, the most painful decision has already been made: this marriage will soon be over. What remains is the aftermath. And these lawyers and therapists are there to help. Meetings with just the lawyers may have already occurred; now, this joint meeting is the kickoff for a timeline of mutual agreeance. What financial and custody agreements must be solidified before this marriage ends? It’s decided here. Inside this room is the beginning of the end. And after all the months of fighting, that realization is comforting.

The therapists remind the couple that thanks to their willingness to undertake Florida collaborative divorce, a judge will not be the one who has the final say in their settlement. These spouses have decided to limit emotional pain by collaborating with professionals trained in such cases – and by doing so, they will limit the financial fallout of the divorce as well. Both nod. They are willing to go through the divorce process without adversarial attitudes.

Even though they understand what they hope to accomplish from the meeting, as the session progresses, negative emotions flare.  One spouse points at the partner’s lack of daily help with child-rearing as a reason for lessened visitation and begins listing all the ways he has fallen short of paternal expectations. He counters with a reminder of his breadwinner status in the relationship and therefore his lack of time.

The therapists manage the situation and remind their clients of the goal at hand. Cooperation is tantamount to the success of Florida collaborative divorce; without it, a more traditional divorce proceeding will be necessary. Both parties share information openly and state what they hope to keep from the union. By speaking clearly and without passion, they are able to come to an agreement.

The therapists had already pre-qualified this couple for the collaborative divorce process, so it’s not surprising that by the end of the hour, there’s a solid plan in place for dissolution. If an agreement had not been reached, new lawyers would have had to be hired and litigation begun.

The session is over. The lawyers leave to draw up a Marriage Settlement Agreement, which the spouses will willingly sign. And that courtroom battle that seemed inevitable months ago during all the disagreements? It never comes close to fruition.

For more information about collaborative divorce and how involving both a therapist and a Florida divorce attorney can save you time, money and heartache during marriage dissolution, visit the website for the Coleman Law Group.

Truck Accident? Here’s what you need to know.

Truck and highway at sunset. Truck Car in motion blur. Truck accident

A truck accident brings with it unique legal questions and challenges. That’s not surprising – after all, commercial trucks loaded to the brim can exceed 80,000 pounds in weight, and accidents involving such heft can be truly devastating. Still, a large truck’s involvement in a fender-bender does not immediately guarantee that the driver is at fault. Read below as we outline some of the legal basics to understand regarding truck accidents.

Comparative negligence still applies. Yes, that truck is huge. And yes, the driver may have swerved at an inopportune time, leading to a jackknife. Cars may be smashed domino-style down a whole stretch of highway. But what of the carelessness shown by the other drivers involved? Were one or more in the truck’s blind spot? Was a motorist weaving in and out of traffic, cutting off the truck’s path at the worst moment possible? Remember: It is still possible to prevail in a lawsuit when a driver is partially at fault – but if the percentage of culpability is high, chances are low or nil.

You may or may not be able to sue the trucking company that employs the driver. Many truck drivers are independent contractors. One week they may haul tomatoes, oranges and grapefruit; the next, they may be at the steering wheel of a baked goods rig. Drivers who are in fact employed directly by the company whose goods they are hauling have an employment relationship with that company. Therefore, the company in theory can be held liable.

The same holds true for hazardous materials. Imagine a truck accident occurs and a slurry of hazardous waste spills onto the ground, releasing airborne pathogens and affecting the health of nearby passengers. If it can be proven that the driver was not offered proper training for such a haul, damages may be sought. It is the hazardous material company’s duty to inform the driver that what they are carrying can cause real harm.

When the other driver is at fault, recovering for lost wages due to injury is reasonable. Hopefully, your injuries are mild and recovery is swift. Even minor injuries can mean lost wages, however, and just as with a regular automobile accident, you are entitled to sue for lost income. In this case, make sure you retain a truck accident lawyer to review the case. He or she will look at each detail of the accident and deduce whether you stand to benefit from a lawsuit.

Commercial trucks are modern-day mammoths of our roadways, and when they are improperly operated, injury or death can occur. If you are a victim of a truck accident and have questions about your rights as a victim, contact the Coleman Law Group at (727) 214-0400 for a free consultation.

Uber SCREWS UP? Who’s at Fault in a Rideshare Accident?

Yellow Taxi Sign On Roof Of Car. Uber accident rideshare accident

You’re relaxing in the cushy backseat of an Uber when the driver takes your comment I’m in a bit of a hurry literally and runs a red light. What happens when a rideshare goes bad? Read below as we examine who is at fault in a rideshare accident and what you can expect if you’ve been involved in one.

Think Uber, Lyft and services like these are solely transportation organizations? Guess again. They’re technology conduits that connect drivers with passengers. As pure transportation companies, taxis fall under a whole different legal umbrella than rideshares. This difference can be major when it comes to seeking recompense for personal injuries.

Let’s examine Uber in particular. Part of that fee you paid to the driver includes what the company calls a ‘safe driver fee.’ That money goes to cover driving safety education and background checks. Even a huge company like Uber can’t control the traffic, though. Therefore, they cannot guarantee your total safety while out on the roads. No one can.

Not only can Uber not issue this guarantee, but anyone injured in a rideshare accident can’t expect the same treatment as, say, someone injured by a trucker employed full-time by a single company. Rideshare drivers operate as independent contractors. Therefore, their company can deny liability in many cases.

When the Uber is not available to rides sharers and is being driven for personal use, the company absolutely assumes no liability. However, let’s say that the Uber is available to accept passengers and an accident occurs. In this instance, the driver’s personal insurance policy comes into play, but if they requested coverage through Uber and the damages exceed their personal liability limits, payouts will come from Uber’s policy.

What about when the wreck in question involves an Uber driver carrying a passenger? This is where Uber’s liability policy can be accessed. Both the driver and the passenger could be covered. The main word here is could.

If you’ve been involved in an accident as a rideshare driver or passenger and believe that the rideshare company has not given you your just recompense, contact the Coleman Law Group. Our compassionate, aggressive lawyers will examine the nuances of your case and give you our honest opinion regarding your chances in court. Each of our lawyers is dedicated to specific cases, ensuring that full attention is given to each client.

No rideshare should end in pain and suffering, lost wages or other hindrances. Those who experience such loss may be eligible to bring a civil suit against the rideshare company or the driver’s personal insurer. For more information, contact the Coleman Law Group at (727) 214-0400 for a free consultation.

Texting and Driving? – Think Again.

Injured car passenger calling an ambulance, in the background unconscious car driver.

We have all heard the message that texting and driving don’t mix. It’s common knowledge that the practice is extremely dangerous, but what are the legal ramifications if a Florida driver does choose to text while behind the wheel? You may be surprised to learn that the Sunshine State’s texting ban is considered weak compared to most of the country.

The most glaring difference is how the ban is enforced. Let’s say you’re driving down a city street and you quickly respond to a text from your mother about dinner tonight. After all, you can’t wait to tell her you want steak instead of chicken, right? There’s a police cruiser next to you, and after your press ‘send’ you and the officer lock eyes. Unless another reason exists to pull you off the roadway, that officer may not do so. Another infraction must be visible first.

This is a blessing for text-happy drivers – but it’s also a curse that can make them more complacent and lead to safety concerns. According to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, a car traveling 40 miles per hour will travel 290 feet in a mere five seconds. Stare at the phone for that amount of time, and you will lose all perspective of what is happening on the road. Should a child or animal run across the street, it’s likely you will not brake in time to avoid them – and loss of life is never worth a text.

Phone records aren’t usually examined unless a serious accident occurs. However, if you are caught speeding in a school zone and the officer also witnesses you tapping away at the phone, two points will be added to those incurred by the primary offense. Be involved in a crash caused by texting, and expect six extra points on that license. As you can imagine, adding texting to an existing offense can quickly lead to the loss of a license. While the first offense leads to just a warning, if you are caught again the points could be even higher.

Whether Florida will crack down further on texting remains to be seen. There is definitely some uproar in the legislature regarding the relative ease of penalties levied to those texting and driving in Florida. Proponents of a tougher ban argue that the mere act of texting while behind the wheel should be cause for enforcement. Indeed, most other states agree and have passed tougher laws.

What will it take to keep text-happy fingers away from phones while in transit? Consider the ultimate cost when you are tempted to answer that message: loss of life. It could be yours or another person’s life that hangs in the balance – all because you absolutely could not wait to press ‘send.’

For answers to questions about texting and driving and for legal advice, contact the Coleman Law Group at 727-214-0400. Their attorneys offer a free consultation and will explain your legal options.

“We want Prenup!” Don’t Wait – Until It’s Too Late!

Conflicted husband and wife during divorce consultation with lawyer

The topic of Florida prenuptial agreements naturally gets tossed around our Tampa law office often – after all, love is always in the air, and as everyone knows, love can make you blind. Kanye and Jamie Foxx have a whole song about the dangers of these rose-colored glasses. Their iconic prenup anthem Gold Digger is basically a family law cautionary tale to the max.

Our legal advice to couples who come to us for marriage preparation is much tamer than Kanye’s take on the matter. We’re not suggesting you’ve got a gold digger situation. Still, here are a few instances that inspire our clients to enter the office and yell, We want prenup! We want prenup! (Ok, there is never any yelling of this. We had to get some lyrics in this post somewhere).

When should you have a Tampa lawyer draw up a Florida prenuptial agreement for you and your intended? 

In short – the earlier it’s planned before your marriage, the better. Consider these instances:

You have read the statistics and are a realist. ‘Happily ever afters’ are possible, of course. Our lawyers happen to believe this wholeheartedly on a personal level. However, the Florida divorce rate is high. By both parties understanding what is at stake if divorce does happen, the details will be laid out for the least painful dissolution of your Florida marriage if you have a prenuptial agreement.

You don’t want any surprises, money-wise. Kanye raps about the ‘you’re not the father’ scenario, where it’s revealed after 18 years that a child is not biologically the offspring of the person who financially supported him. Your reasons for a Florida prenuptial agreement need be much less dramatic. If one or both parties bring children to the union, it is to their benefit that you agree upon ‘what if’ scenarios ahead of time.

Consider this scenario: Junior is about to go away to college when his parents file for a Florida divorce. All of a sudden, that Ivy League education his stepdad promised to fund seems like a sub-par investment. The future graduate is left to scramble for loans to fulfill his educational aspirations because there was no prenuptial agreement signed. Concerned about protecting an inheritance? -Opt for the prenup.

There are other instances where a prenuptial agreement is advisable, of course, and none of them are mentioned in the rap song (though we believe they should be because that would be fabulous and educational). If you and your partner are interested in learning whether a prenuptial agreement is right for your unique situation, contact our compassionate Florida lawyers at the Coleman Law Group who can explain the benefits of the document at www.TheColemanLawGroup.com or (727) 214-0400.

Trust us, you’ll want to work with a caring professional who at no time in the planning process will stop, point his/her finger at one of you, and yell, “Gold Digger!” Most Florida prenups aren’t about people marrying for reasons other than love. Just as with most things in life, it’s just comforting to know what the future will hold if a certain outcome is to occur. Now go tell that to Kanye.

Preventing Another House of Horrors: Reporting abuse, neglect and exploitation

Family law horror stories continue to shock us. Twelve children are found handcuffed, prisoners of their parents. ‘Child support’ takes on the opposite meaning in shocking cases as parents deny their offspring basic necessities like food and clothing. In situations like the above, typical family law issues like visitation and spousal support take a backseat to restraining orders and foster care. The general public is left to ask the same sad question regardless of individual circumstance: How could this happen?

 

We at the Coleman Law Group wish we had the answer. What we can offer is suggestions for action. Here’s how to identify whether a child is in an unsafe situation, how to report it, and what to do to help those who are hurt heal.

 

Define the situation. Concerned that your neighbor’s disciplinary method for his toddler doesn’t mesh with your hands-off ‘time out’ policy? Keep in mind that the practice of spanking does not necessarily indicate abuse. Corporal punishment that does not lead to a child’s harm is not punishable. You can disagree with your neighbor’s method of punishment for Junior’s shortcomings. However, it is not against the law.

 

Abuse is present if a child is hurt or threatened with hurt that affects their physical and emotional wellbeing. Withdrawing food and other basic necessities also constitutes abuse and neglect. Neglect raises another red flag and needs to be identified and shared with authorities. Do you believe a child is not receiving essential items like medicine? Are they left alone without supervision?

 

If you suspect abuse or neglect, report it. You can share your concern online at Florida Department of Children and Families MyFLFamilies.com. You can also call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 800-962-2873. Be prepared to share as much information as you can, including ages of those involved, what you have witnessed, etc. A list of helpful items to know is found at http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/abuse-hotline/what-we-need-know. Reporting via fax is an option as well.

If you don’t have all the information requested by the Florida Department of Children and Families, call the number anyway. It’s better to err on the side of caution and report the incident. Also, if you believe imminent danger is possible, call the number and forego the online form. Your personal information will be kept confidential – and you may save someone’s life. Please note that the information shared above is also pertinent for other neglect or abuse situations, such as abuse or neglect of the elderly.

We’ll never know why some people choose to neglect, abuse or exploit others. However, we can take action when evidence of such action (or inaction) is present. Further help abused and neglected children by becoming a guardian ad litem and advocate for minors in court. Coleman Law Group founder Constance Coleman is herself an attorney ad litem, and she is dedicated to helping children find peace at the end of their legal journey. Learn more at guardianadlitem.org

Happily Ever Separated “When Mediated Divorce is the Best Way to Uncouple”

 

Ready to file for divorce in Florida? Take the following quick quiz to learn whether a mediated divorce proceeding guided by a Florida family law attorney acting as mediator is your best bet to happily ever separated. Which of the following descriptions best describes your situation?

 

  1. a) As divorcing spouses, my partner and I understand and agree that the welfare of our children is paramount. We would like to complete the Florida divorce proceedings as quickly as legally possible, and are willing to work out the details of our divorce and child support/custody in a clear and concise manner.
  2. b) We can’t be in the same room as one another. If I ask my spouse to meet me at a Florida family law firm, he won’t show up – and if he did, we would just start shouting anyway. Nothing would get resolved. Domestic violence and/or drugs/alcohol abuse have been an issue in our household.
  3. c) My spouse and I have very different beliefs and disagree sharply on matters, but we would both like to divorce quickly and with the least possible legal costs involved.

 

If you answered ‘a’ or even ‘c’, you’re in luck: a divorce with a mediator assisting may be just what you need. Read onward to learn the gist of divorce mediation in Florida. You can expect:

 

  • Control – You and your spouse will decide the terms of your settlement. A judge will not enter the picture unless mediation fails and you are forced to go to court to ultimately obtain your divorce.

 

  • Cooperation – The goal of divorce mediation is to forge agreements that are acceptable to both parties.

 

  • Collaboration and Privacy – During mediation, both parties have a chance to express their needs and preferences in a comfortable, non-threatening environment where privacy is protected.

 

A mediator is a neutral third party who identifies legal issues that need to be resolved and give you information about family law statutes. The mediator does not pass judgments, make decisions for you or give legal advice. Take note that mediation isn’t synonymous with ‘lack of representation’; each party may still opt to have a lawyer advise them if they wish.

 

A mediator can help you work through child custody agreements and http://www.attorneys.com/child-custody/florida/florida-child-custody-law-basics/; understand and schedule division spousal maintenance. http://www.divorcesupport.com/divorce/Florida-Spousal-Support-Maintenance-Alimony-481.html. The mediator can suggest options for resolving these matters and other applicable challenges – and once an agreement is reached, they will draw up the paperwork necessary for a binding settlement.

 

-That’s it. A traditional divorce can drag on and on; a mediator often helps spouses reach agreement within a few weeks or months. Because of the quick turnaround, mediated divorces typically cost much less. Avoiding huge attorney fees while coming to a mutually beneficial agreement with your once-partner is the best-case scenario.

 

For couples in the St. Petersburg, Tampa or Land O’ Lakes areas, The Coleman Law Group can help you decide if divorce mediation is right for you. Make an appointment with one of our caring, compassionate family law attorneys. There is life after divorce – we can help you discover it quickly and amicably through mediation.

Response to Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has left us reeling. Yes, we are hurting. We are mothers, aunts, friends; the thought that a gunman could open fire on the children we hold most dear while they attend school is an unbelievable horror.

We do not shake our heads and wonder What can be done? No, we do not ask questions that are swallowed by the air. We demand something be done. One more life lost because of a war-ready weapon in the hands of an unstable individual is too many. We look to our firm’s motto, where power meets passion, for inspiration to act. It’s time to use our collective voices as a powerful, passionate catalyst of change.

We, the lawyers of the Coleman Law Group, suggest the following course of action:

Decide what you believe – and fight for it. Do you believe the United States Constitution should be followed to the exact letter? Read the second amendment. Now, take a close look at your belief in the all-encompassing right to bear arms. Remember that when the constitution was written, people armed themselves with muskets – not semi-automatic weapons capable of mass killing.

Take that realization and avoid marring it with extreme views. Americans are historically open to ‘gray area’ compromises. We’re a melting pot, after all, and that has meant a merging of opinions and beliefs since our country’s inception. If you believe that no one in the United States should own any type of gun, rethink your stance. That’s not going to happen. The opposite view that we are entitled to every type of firearm is misguided as well. Decide upon a reasonable point of view.

What is not reasonable is detailed in a recent article printed by the New York Times found here.  In Florida, an AR15 is easier to acquire than a handgun. We find this to be grossly negligent. These guns should be difficult to obtain, not a near-impulse purchase. And people who have been shown to be a possible danger to themselves and others should not be able to purchase them.

To us, this just makes sense. Do you agree? If so, make sure those who can change the course of history hear you. Join a group like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and become an advocate for what is right and what is reasonable.

Once you begin, take heart in the fight. Remember that commonsense regulatory actions have happened before and that there is reason to believe they can be enacted again. Do you recall the Federal Assault Weapons Ban? The ten-year proclamation expired in 2004, but it made the use and ownership of semi-automatic weapons prohibitive for civilians.

We of the Coleman Law Group pledge to join our voices with yours to enact real change – one that keeps what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School from ever occurring again. Let’s get started.

A Study of Lawful, Nonviolent Protest

This February, as we reflect upon Black History Month, we are reminded of the ability of a group to enact real change. Led by Martin Luther King Jr., African Americans joined together in nonviolent protest – and found civil rights victory. This example is extremely relevant today.

We propose looking at Black History as a blueprint for current and future movements. Many issues plague our modern-day communities. There’s school violence. Gun control (or lack of it). Opioid abuse. What has no place in your world? Answer the question and find like-minded Americans to take up the cause with you. Unity is a major impetus for change. We believe that those who agree may move mountains. Dr. King showed us that it’s possible.

There are many pros to nonviolent protest as a means to a peaceful end. These include (but are not limited to):

Sparking a national discourse – Humans seek a sense of community. It’s the primal reason we seek to establish families and to surround ourselves with others who believe as we do. When Dr. King became a leader in the Civil Rights movement, black Americans viewed him as someone who would speak for them. With Dr. King at the helm, they gained the confidence to follow him and peacefully picket, march and protest. America took notice. How could it not?

A reasonable way to join a movement – Violence should never be condoned. And nonviolent protest is arguably far more effective anyway. When thousands of people believe the same truth that you do, you are seen as more pervasive than, for example, an extremist whose views are voiced by few zealots. Having many people in agreement makes even those who may not have agreed with your views in the past stop and ask the obvious question: If so many people believe this, could it perhaps be true? This naturally leads to a re-examination of beliefs and values.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. Dr. King said that – and we can’t help but believe that it’s a lot easier to take that first step when there are others taking it with you. Seek out those who also strive for change but are not sure where to begin. Become a leader and offer a voice to the emotion, if you so choose. And remember the power that a person like Martin Luther King, Jr. can have to peacefully change the course of a nation.  

Dr. King famously remarked that he chose love over hate. By focusing on the positive ramifications of protest and by doing so in a peaceful manner, his actions, and the action of those who followed him, serve as a model for future campaigns.

The Coleman Law Group is proud to have Constance Coleman at its helm. Constance is an African American lawyer who practices with compassion and focus. She believes in justice and the ability of groups of like-minded people to find it in a peaceful manner. Discover more about the Coleman Law Group at: www.thecolemanlawgroup.com

Gasparilla 2018: Stay Safe and Pirate On

Read Before You Invade

Avast, ye lovers of bead booty and Bayshore Boulevard: Tampa’s Gasparilla festival is nearly upon us. Since 1904, the Bay Area has celebrated Jose Gaspar with a homage worthy of the alleged 1700s-era plunderer. That Jose was rather naughty. You too can let loose and let your pirate flag fly Saturday, January 27 by following a few tips. Party like a pirate and stay safe. Here’s how.

Select thy driver – After a day watching the invasion, ambling up and down the Boulevard and party-hopping, it’s a solid bet that your driver has (ahem) “designated” a good amount of rum. Therefore, that Uber driver is likely going to be your best bet. Or the Lyft guy in the Escalade. You get the drift. Plenty of taxis, streetcars, trolleys and HART buses are available as well. Just don’t be impatient – nearly a half million people are expected to be in attendance, so it may take a while to find that ride.

Remember thy road rules – Just because there is a literal horde of people in pirate garb blocking the streets, this does not give you permission to make up your own road rules. (Yes, we agree that Jose Gaspar probably did whatever he darn well wanted, but he didn’t have the Tampa Police Department out in full force three hundred years ago, either). Repeat the following phrase: I am not a real pirate. I still have to follow rules and laws. Pay attention to what’s going on around you – and a piece of eight to all who actually use the crosswalk.

If you are involved in an accident, contact a reputable attorney immediately – Ok, so this advice isn’t limited to Gasparilla. Still, if you experience an automobile accident anytime throughout the festival, or you’re involved in a motorcycle collision or other accident, contact a reputable attorney. Personal injury is no joke, swashbucklers. If you experience injury of any kind, talk to a compassionate Florida personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Ok, so enough with the admonitions already. It’s time to celebrate, Tampa! Festival-goers, we wish you a day full of pirate pleasure. May your cup be full, your smile wide, your beads plentiful, and your experience safe.

Full disclosure: The Coleman Law Group apologizes that our recommendations for Gasparilla 2018 arrrrrr full of pirate puns. Be honest: you can’t help yourself either.