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.

10 Tips for Driving Safely This Holiday Season

driving safely

Welcome to the holidays – full of friends, festivities and fender benders. Driving safely is obviously a yearlong goal, but during this time of extra merriment, it makes sense to take extra care out on the roads. Want to avoid having to ask Santa for car accident assistance this Christmas?

Follow these tips for driving safely during the holiday season.

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What Should I Bring to my Personal Injury Case Consultation?

personal injury case consultation

 
Before you head to that personal injury case consultation, take a deep breath. You’ve been through a great deal. Any time a person suffers an injury, it’s a jarring experience – but there is a way to lessen the stress. The number one thing you can do to keep that personal injury episode from defining you is to prepare for your personal injury case consultation. Here’s how. Continue reading

Car Accident Lawsuit – Is it Really Worth my Time?

 
An auto accident sets a long list of inconveniences into motion. There’s repair to the automobile, which can be a headache. Health issues from the accident can make the idea of filing a car accident lawsuit exhausting. Take a deep breath and pick up the phone anyway. Call a reputable auto accident attorney. He or she will be able to counsel you regarding whether proceeding with a car accident lawsuit is a sound idea or just a waste of time. Continue reading

10 biggest mistakes after a car accident that can affect your claim

after a car accident

 

1 – Failing to call the police

For a person who has never been in an accident, it can be a stressful event and you may wonder, “Should I call the police?” The answer is always “yes!”  It is normal to feel a little uncomfortable about calling the police after a car accident, but it is necessary to document what happened and to make sure information is exchanged.  If, for example, the other driver gives you the wrong information or lacks insurance, you need to know right away so that the police can get involved in enforcing your rights.

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The Irma Aftermath Checklist

Irma Aftermath

 
When the last squall quieted and the final advisory ceased, Hurricane Irma left a mess in her wake – along with thousands of Floridians wondering who is liable for the cleanup. The storm is past; the damage is done. The next steps a homeowner takes can mean the difference between a speedy recovery and a painful learning experience. Find answers to common post-storm questions below. Continue reading