Bill Allowing Breaking of Lease Without Penalty for Domestic Violence Victims a Step in the Right Direction


The Georgia House of Representatives recently passed House Bill 834, which would eliminate early termination penalties for victims of domestic violence who break a lease. The proposed law would allow the termination of a residential lease 30 days after providing a landlord written notice of the issuance of a protective injunction for the protection of domestic violence. The measure passed the House of Representatives by a unanimous vote (166-0).

Fears of financial hardships are often cited by victims as the primary reason for staying with an abuser. However, laws such as those passed in Georgia would help ease this fear, in at least one area. Here in Florida, domestic violence victims can access relocation assistance programs through the Florida Attorney General’s Crime Victim Compensation Program. Under Florida Statute, Section 960.198, an award of $1,500 per claim, with a lifetime limit of $3,000, can be awarded to those domestic violence victims who cooperate with law enforcement authorities investigating the crimes, such as the police or the State Attorney’s Office. In order to receive these funds, these law enforcement officials must certify that a victim is assisting in their efforts to punish the abuser.

However, more assistance is needed to fully aid victims in their often-desperate attempts to free themselves and their loved-ones from an abusive relationship. Bills such as those passed a few days ago in Georgia can provide some small comfort to these victims looking to leave a dangerous situation. Of course, the proposed Georgia law would require a victim to show proof of the incident of domestic violence, such as a police report or a protective injunction. We here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, applaud the members of the Georgia House of Representatives for passing this proposed law, and urge the members of Florida’s Legislature to follow their example.–regional-govt–politics/domestic-violence-victims-could-escape-homes-under-georgia-bill/yVTbzURHwgICHz4qRGmEaP/

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The Connection Between Domestic Violence and Mass Shootings


While many states, including Florida, have temporary bans on firearm possession and ownership for individuals who have active domestic violence injunctions, Oregon recently took things a bit further by passing legislature that would outright ban anyone with a domestic violence or stalking conviction from ever buying or owning a firearm.

With the number of mass shootings on the rise this will likely be the first of many new gun control measures that will be passed at the state level.   And while it may not appear on its face to address the increase in mass shootings, there is a very real connection between domestic violence in the home and the individuals that commit these shootings.

Statistically, in the majority of mass shootings in the US (54%) one of the victims was either a family member or intimate partner of the shooter.  With domestic violence being the cycle that it is, it is unlikely that these acts of violence were the first one’s directed at these family members or intimate partners.

Some of these individuals, like Devin Kelley who killed 26 people in Sutherland Springs, TX, had prior domestic violence convictions.  If a law similar to the one just passed in Oregon was on the books in Texas, Devin Kelley would have had a much harder time getting his hands on the firearm(s) he used to kill those 26 people

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The Need to Manage Client Expectations in Family Law Cases

Anyone who has ever done or sat in on a consultation for a potential family law client knows the importance of managing a client’s expectation from the onset.  Inevitably there will always be those potential clients who are looking for the moon and the stars and are unrealistic with regards to their desired outcome.  While this is present in many practice areas, I believe it to be most prevalent in family law cases due to the very personal and emotional nature of virtually all the cases.  Now I’m not faulting these individuals for wanting to get the most they possible can out of their case.

Most people who seek out a family law attorney have never needed the services of a lawyer and know little about Florida law as it pertains to family cases.  Thus, they don’t realize how difficult it is to get things such as sole parental responsibility, 100% time-sharing, supervised visitation, permanent alimony in a short-term marriage, etc.  That’s where the family law attorney comes in.  From the very first meeting a quality family law attorney will go over all the aspects of the potential client’s case and assess whether their desired outcome is even remotely attainable.

The potential client needs to fight that temptation to look for a family law attorney that will pump them up and tell them everything their looking to hear. This will almost certainly end badly for both the client and the family law lawyer.  Remember, an attorney’s job is not to tell you what you want to hear, it’s to tell you what you need to hear so that the client can make an informed decision. The last thing that either side wants is to walk out of court or the mediator’s office and have the client turn to them and say, “what just happened?”

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Eddy Piniero to the Rescue – A Gator’s Fight Against Domestic Violence

As a life-long fan of the Florida Gators, it always fills me with pride to say that I am a part of the Gator Nation. I received both my undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida, and my Wife, Father and Sister are all Gator Alums.

However, I take to this forum today to say that I cannot remember being as proud of a Florida Gator as I am of former Gator place kicker Eddie Pineiro. Pineiro came to the rescue of a woman being attacked by her boyfriend. This crime of domestic violence could have ended in tragedy but for the quick actions of Piniero, who rushed downstairs to the woman’s aid. He was joined in the rescue by his Father.

Too often these days, we hear only of the negative actions of sports stars. It is sometimes the case that even Gator and former Gator athletic stars have been the perpetrators of these vicious acts, much to the horror and embarrassment of Gator Nation. However, Piniero, who’s name is often chanted during Gator football games as he kicks fifty-plus yard field goals, has now shown us all that true glory is found in the selfless actions of aiding victims of domestic violence.

The Gainesville Police Department awarded Piniero and his Father with the Police Service Award. Piniero himself took to Twitter to encourage respectful behavior. I’m sure Piniero will fill the hearts of Gator Nation with pride on Sunday’s in the NFL excelling in football. But, it will be his act of heroism in Gainesville on October 15, 2017, that may end up being his true legacy as a human being. Cheers to you Eddy from all those here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, for your actions in the struggle against domestic violence.


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What to do When the Other Parent isn’t Exercising Their Timesharing

Some people might not see this as a problem, particularly in high conflict relationships.  You don’t have to deal with the other parent and you have a monopoly on your child’s time.   However, there are some real considerations, chief among them is whether the other parent, despite not exercising their time-sharing, is still getting credit in the child support guidelines for that time.  Remember, the two biggest factors in calculating child support are the parties’ net incomes and the number of overnights that each parent gets with the child on any given year.  So, its possible the other parent is deriving a big benefit from time-sharing they aren’t even using.  Well, thankfully the Florida legislature has provided you with an answer to this dilemma.  Florida Statute 61.30 allows a parent to request a modification of child support when the other parent isn’t exercising their time-sharing, so long as that parent wasn’t being unreasonably prevented from doing so.  In fact, that modification can go all the way back to when the other parent stopped exercising that time-sharing.  Depending on what the change in child support amounts to and the length of time during which the other parent wasn’t visiting, this can amount to a fairly large amount of money.   Please note though, that absent the court modifying the time-sharing schedule as well, this modification will only cover the time that the other parent wasn’t visiting, it does not change the child support moving forward (Andrews v. Andrews, 219 So. 3d 1006 (2nd DCA, FLA).  Thus, another consideration might be for the primary parent to seek a modification of the time-sharing schedule as well in order to make the child support modification permanent.

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Revictimizing the Domestic Violence Victim

Often times, in cases of domestic violence, victims come to the justice and court system seeking help or guidance to extricate themselves from difficult situations. Unfortunately, far too often, the very system set up to help victims serves to revictimize them in dangerous ways.

Take, for example, the situation of the unnamed victim depicted in Jerry Iannelli’s Miami New Times story. A Miami Police Officer seriously and grossly mishandled a potentially dangerous situation of domestic violence by discounted both the history and facts of her encounter with the domestic violence victim. Often times, situations of domestic violence are not given the respect they deserve by those in law enforcement or the criminal justice system. Many times, those on the front-lines fighting domestic violence become numb to the signs of danger right in front of their faces.

Such tendencies must be fought by those first responders dealing with domestic violence every day. Training of police officers and prosecutors, often done by attorneys right here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, is critical to safeguarding victims of domestic violence and our community. Overlooking crimes of domestic violence can often have tragic consequences. Many recent mass shootings, from Sandy Hook, to the Orlando Pulse nightclub shootings, to the recent Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church mass shooting, had perpetrators who committed acts of domestic violence that were overlooked by authorities.

We here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, given our training and background as prosecutors and attorneys representing victims of domestic violence, understand that education of first responders, police officers and others involved in our justice system, is a critical component toward changing misguided attitudes like those of the Officer depicted in this article.


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How to Choose the Right Divorce Lawyer

1. Know What Is Important to You – In any one divorce case there are endless issues that can be fought over. From child custody and child support to alimony and attorney’s fees. If you don’t narrow down the issues in order of importance to you, you will spend a great deal of time and money litigating everything. Know what your not willing to back down on and what you are willing to negotiate on will give the lawyer you do choose a better understanding of what you are looking for and can ensure you have reasonable expectations when it comes to results.

2. Stay Focused on Your Goals – Often times the other side will attempt to make things difficult during a divorce, particularly when there is a lot of animosity amongst the parties. The nature reaction can sometimes be to fight fire with fire, but in doing so, you often lose sight of what your goals are for the case and you begin to fight over things that have little or no importance to you. Stay focused and be the bigger person.

3. Have Realistic Expectations – The worst thing you can do is go in to a divorce with unrealistic expectations. Not only does that make it very difficult for your divorce lawyer to effectively represent you and you will never fully be satisfied. A good divorce attorney will manage your expectations and give you a realistic result based upon your goals and those issues that are important to you. It’s important to always remember that an attorney’s job is not to tell you what you want to hear, its to tell you what you need to hear, particularly when it comes to what kind of result you can expect. So please do disregard an attorney during a consultation simply because he is not telling you exactly what you want to hear, chances are that’s a quality divorce lawyer.

4. Ask for Referrals – The best place to start when searching for the right divorce lawyer is by asking your friends and family. Not only are they more likely to steer you in the right direction, but usually a referral is based on a positive experience they had with that particular divorce attorney. Please keep in mind that the facts and results for every case are different and you cannot hire an attorney expecting the same results that a friend or family member may have received.

5. Do Your Research – Whether it’s a divorce lawyer that was referred to you or one you found on the internet, you need to do your research. Like many other professional service providers, you can find reviews and disciplinary histories for most attorneys. In addition, nowadays almost every attorney has a website that you can browse to get information on the divorce attorney’s experience and accomplishments.

6. Sit Down With More Than One Attorney – In most cases you will want to sit down with more than one attorney in order to find the right divorce lawyer for you. Sure there are people who will hit it off right away and skip this step, but for the vast majority you will want to shop around to find the best fit.

7. Cost Should Always Be a Consideration – Just because you’re not a millionaire, doesn’t mean you can’t find a quality attorney. There are plenty of divorce lawyers who do amazing work at a reasonable price and aren’t knocking on your door on the 1st of the month when you haven’t paid last month’s balance in full. Whenever you meet with a potential divorce attorney you should ask about any cost saving measures they can employ and whether or not they offer payment plans.

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GOP Tax Bill Repeals the Alimony Deduction Starting in 2019

Under the GOP’s new tax bill, spouses who pay alimony will be unable to deduct these funds from their taxes. Currently, spouses who pay alimony can deduct these payments from their income, lowering their taxable exposure. Such deductions often eased the pain for the paying spouses.

Like with most changes from Washington, D.C., there is good news and bad news. The repeal of the alimony deduction doesn’t apply to dissolution agreements made before December 31, 2018. However, starting in 2019, all divorce agreements requiring alimony payments will not allow the payor spouse to lower their income tax exposure.

Many family law practitioners worry this change may have a trickle-down effect, particularly, the fear comes in increased litigation over alimony itself, along with increased acrimony in such areas as equitable distribution. The increase in taxes could also serve to lower the amount available to children in child support calculations.

Like with most new changes, time will tell what the effect this alteration will have for Florida divorces. However, one thing is clear, if you are contemplating a divorce in the near future, and the prospect of not being able to deduct your spouse’s alimony payment is important to you, you should see a seasoned family law attorney soon.

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Divorce Talks Lead to Attempted Murder Charge for Palm Beach Man

In a cautionary tale for anyone going through a divorce, a Palm Beach County man is alleged to have pulled a gun at his soon to be ex-wife and threatened to kill her.  This scenario is, unfortunately, not uncommon in divorces, which are often filed with tension and emotions.  To see more, read the following article:

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