The Startling Toll on Children Who Witness Domestic Violence Is Just Now Being Understood

New research is giving scientists more insight into the far-reaching and long-lasting harms of domestic violence to the children who grow up around it – including a startling finding: Witnessing abuse carries the same risk of harm to children’s mental health and learning as being abused directly.

Brain imaging in infants shows that exposure to domestic violence – even as they are sleeping, or in utero – can reduce parts of the brain, change its overall structure and affect the way its circuits work together.

Studies show that when babies born to mothers who were subjected to violence during pregnancy become adults, they have three times as much inflammation in their bodies as those whose mothers weren’t. Inflammation causes a much higher risk of poor health, and a far greater likelihood of depression.

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US Congress

Violence Against Women Act May Be Dying A Slow Death In US Congress

US CongressIn 1994, the US Congress passed, with bi-partisan agreement, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, became the first Federal legislation to tackle the issue of domestic violence in the United States. Although certainly not perfect, this Act gave Federal resources and recognition to law enforcement’s efforts to protect victims of domestic violence. The Act also gave survivors of domestic violence pathways to remove themselves and their loved ones from violent relationships, such as funds to move into new homes/apartments and gave funds to train police officers and prosecutors across the country in domestic violence prevention.

Congress reauthorized this Act, again, with bi-partisan support, in 2000, 2005 and 2013. Now, however, this bi-partisan agreement regarding VAWA has seemingly vanished. The reauthorization bill currently in the US House of Representatives, would continue many of the current Act’s grants, while strengthening law enforcement’s ability to remove firearms and weapons from perpetrators of domestic violence, along with making it harder to evict survivors of domestic violence from public assisted housing due to the criminal acts of their abusers.

VAWA is set to expire September 4, 2018. Whether the reauthorization bill currently in the US House simply tries to implement common-sense solutions or is more radical then prior efforts, the fact that the US Congress has refused to even debate the bill is shameful. Without reauthorization, many survivors of domestic violence, along with the many individuals currently working to curb the scourge of domestic violence throughout this Country, will be left without the support necessary to continue the good fight. We here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, urge Congress to do their job and debate the current bill and then reauthorize VAWA, now.

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Putative Father Registry

Florida’s Putative Father Registry

Putative Father RegistryWhile most people are unfamiliar with Florida’s putative father registry, any unmarried biological father would be well served to learn as much as they can about it. The best way to think about the putative father registry is that it is a database of unmarried biological fathers. The purpose for filing a “claim” with the registry is to preserve your right to notice and consent should the mother of that child ever put the child up for adoption.  When filing a “Claim of Paternity” you will be asked general information about yourself as well as the mother and the child. Providing as much information as possible will increase your chances of being “found” in the event that the mother attempts to place the child for adoption.

While filing a claim with the registry is an important first step in ensuring some very basic rights as the biological father, additional steps need to be taken to establish a legal right to visitation with your child. 

Contact Benjamin & Melmer, LLC for more information about what we can do for you. We can help ensure your rights are protected.


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Summer Doesn’t Have to Mean Conflict With Your Ex

It’s that time of year again in South Florida. The days are longer, the weather hotter and the afternoon’s wetter. Summer is here. That also means summer vacation for the children is upon us. For divorced parents, this time also means heightened stress and potential conflict with your ex-spouse.

However, this does not have to be the case. As we often tell our clients, communication is key. Whether it is the details for out-of-town vacations or the new schedule for summer camps, a clear and open line of communication between co-parents is often the lynchpin of a stress and conflict free summer. Communication should not stop with your ex-spouse. Talk with your children about your summer plans to prepare them for the upcoming schedule.

Also, preparation is important for a smooth summer. Make sure all documentation necessary to effectuate trips (passports, written parental consents, court orders, etc.) are in place well before any summer travel plans are booked. Lastly, don’t make the summer about you! Find ways to incorporate your children’s wishes and best interests into any summer plans and leave any bad-blood and competition with your ex-spouse out of the equation. Children want to be with their parents, but, most of all, they want to be with a happy parent who is focused on them. Becoming distracted by an unhealthy and destructive sense of competition with your ex-spouse can have long term consequences for both you and your children.

However, despite your best efforts, we here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC understand that conflict and strife may be unavoidable. In such cases, we are here to offer you the effective and healthy representation you deserve. Call our Office today to schedule a consultation to go over your legal rights when the heat of summer turns into legal complications with your ex-spouse.

Here is one good article on tips for a divorced parent to navigate summer vacation:

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Biological Father’s

Biological Father’s Paternity Battle Heard In Florida Supreme Court

 Biological Father’s The Florida Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in a Florida man’s legal battle to gain paternity rights toward his biological daughter. The man is the biological father of the young girl, but the child’s Mother was married to another man at the time of her birth. The Mother’s legal Husband wants to maintain his relationship with the child and is unwilling to give up his parental rights, even knowing he is not the biological father of the young girl.

This case highlights an often-unknown aspect of Florida law, one that may be out-of-step with the ever-changing composition of the modern family. Under Florida law, a child born during an intact marriage is the legal child of the Husband of the Mother. If it is later discovered that the biological father of the child is another man, that other man still is not entitled to any rights over the child unless the legal father (the legal Husband of the Mother) gives up his parental rights.

The biological Father’s attorney in this case argued that the notion that a child can have only two parents is outdated and should be changed. However, it would seem from questions at oral arguments, the Florida Supreme Court Justices were leaning toward upholding the law and leaving it to the Florida Legislature to modernize the paternity statute, if they were so inclined. Ultimately, according to statements from the biological Father, this issue may make its way to the United States Supreme Court.

Regardless of the outcome, this case highlights the need to seek the counsel of an experienced Family Law attorney when facing issues surrounding paternity. The outcome you think should happen may not always be supported by the laws of Florida. We here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC stand ready to consult with you regarding any paternity issue you may have.

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Prosecutors Seek Jail for Good Samaritan

Prosecutors have immense power. That fact is demonstrated every day in courthouses throughout America. One such instance came in Palm Beach County, where a witness and good Samaritan who thwarted an attempted purse-snatching, was before a criminal judge charged with contempt of court.

The good Samaritan, Corey Wyatt, chased down and caught a purse-snatcher in a Boyton Beach Publix shopping center. However, when the prosecution sought Wyatt’s cooperation in testifying against that criminal, he was less-than helpful. Wyatt, according to the Assistant State Attorney prosecuting the matter, at first reluctantly agreed to appear at trial. Nonetheless, despite being under a court-issued subpoena, Wyatt was a no-show for the criminal trial. The criminal defendant was convicted without Wyatt’s testimony, but the prosecutor, in a rather unusual step, charged Wyatt with contempt of court.

UntitledAs Corey Wyatt discovered, hell hath no fury like a prosecutor scorned. Failure to abide by a duly issued court subpoena carries with it severe repercussions, including criminal prosecution for contempt and, possibly, jail time. In an even more unusual move, the Palm Beach Assistant State Attorney in Wyatt’s case, following his conviction, requested jail time. The Judge, luckily, had the sense to deny this rather extreme request.

The power of a prosecutor is immense. That is why most young prosecutors are trained to use their powers in the pursuit of justice carefully and with respect. When a witness or victim fails to abide by a subpoena, it often leaves these prosecutors, who are seeking some form of justice for victims and the community, frustrated. In addition, a witness’s failure to appear for at trial could lead to a dangerous criminal’s acquittal and may even have the secondary effect of diminishing the effect of a subpoena to persuade individuals to act accordingly. However, most individuals, like Wyatt, have their reasons for not appearing (it appears Wyatt had a job interview), and jailing these witnesses for failing to appear is unlikely to scare future witnesses into following subpoenas. The balance between punishment and compassion is often a difficult one for a good prosecutor to walk, but one that must be done nonetheless.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, we here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, suggest seeking the counsel of an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney. Witnesses have rights. We stand ready to take your call to set up a consultation.–law/good-samaritan-purse-snatching-case-convicted-contempt-charge/lkbIiMGbTuumkEckP4qtwJ/

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Avoiding Child Support Leads To Serious Legal Trouble

Child-SupportRecently, a Broward County man mysteriously disappeared while paddle-boarding in the Atlantic Ocean. George Theoharis disappeared on March 20, 2018, the very same day he was set to appear in Family Court to answer for allegations from his ex-Wife that he owed nearly half a million dollars in back child support payments.

This disappearance may be serious. Or it may be a not-so-subtle attempt at avoiding an obscene amount of child support arrears. If it is the latter, Mr. Theoharis is employing a terrible legal strategy. Back child support can lead to serious legal repercussions. A judge can find that one’s failure to pay child support was an intentional act, and therefore find you in contempt of court. Contempt of court carries extremely serious legal repercussions, including fines, payment of legal fees and, in extreme cases, even jail time. Needless to say, a decision not to pay child support is never a good idea.

However, circumstances can often arise where paying child support can be financially impossible. In such limited circumstances, rather than intentionally disobeying a court order, which is never a good idea, we here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC recommend you consult with an experienced Family Law attorney to review your legal options. You may be able to file a Supplemental Petition to Amend Child Support or have another legal remedy at your disposal. However, what is never recommended is to simply run away and burry your head in the sand. The ostrich approach will surely leave you in a worse position than you already are.

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