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01/10/2014
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Gainesville Community Concerned Following Attacks: Safety Tips for Nighttime Travel 

The Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC, along with residents of our community, remain concerned following reports of numerous victims being assaulted in the UF vicinity. Fortunately all of the victims were able to get away unharmed. However, students, and any other persons traveling by foot on or around campus at nighttime, particularly females, are reminded to take extra precautions to ensure their safety, including:

Whenever walking at nighttime:

  • Avoid walking alone
  • Call for a ride or hail a taxi
  • Travel in groups
  • Stay in well-lighted areas
  • Stay in areas that are patrolled by campus security
  • Remain aware of your surroundings, both visually and audibly
  • Do not use headphones or listen to music while walking at night
  • Do not talk on phone while walking at night, but DO carry phone in hand
  • If you feel you may be in danger, call 911
  • Carry an audible alarm/personal security device/pepper spray/mace in your hand as you walk
  • If you attacked, scream/yell as loud as possible and continuing to do so
  • If you are entering a parking garage alone, use the call boxes, when available, if you feel in danger, or notify campus security before proceeding into the garage alone.
  • If you must travel alone at night, and you are worried, notify Alachua dispatch at 352-955-1818, or UF campus security at 352-392-5447, to see if you can get a police/security escort, or at least notify them of your location, and that you will be traveling alone at night

As far as the recent UF incidents, the university states they have increased security on and around campus. Whether recent safety measures will be enough, we have yet to know—but we hope that this will not be discovered through an attack on another victim. Consequently, we urge any persons traveling by foot in the Gainesville/UF area, now more than ever, to take measures to protect themselves and ensure their own safety. To view more safety information, see UF’s ‘Together for a Safe Campus’ brochure.

Cohabitation & Dating—Part II: Preventative & Protective Measures

Part of responsible parenting requires knowing the persons that your child is exposed to, at least to the fullest extent possible. While it is not always possible to predict or prevent future events, there are several things that parents can do to protect their children from being harmed by another, many of which apply not only to dating and cohabitation situations, but to other circumstance where your child is entrusted or exposed to another (i.e. caregivers), including:

Check Court Records. The clerk of courts provides online access to court records in most counties. When searching records for a particular person, it is important to check (1) the county that person resides in; (2) surrounding counties, and (3) counties that the person previously resided in.

Run a Background Check. There a number of resources through which parents can obtain information on a person. Backgrounds checks often include criminal history, prior residences, employment history, and in many cases even information regarding a person’s family or relatives. There are numerous providers of this type service to be found online.

Sexual Predator Check. Parents can search the National Sexual Offender Public Registry (NSOPR), which provides access to nationwide information through a variety of search tools.

Other Search Methods. Parents can also perform a variety of other searches, such as checking public property records, running google searches, or checking social media sites, for the purpose of verifying a person’s identity, as well as confirming the truth/accuracy of a person’s statements/claims.

Speak with a Mental Health Professional. In many cases, parents may also find it beneficial to speak with a mental health professional, particularly one that has experience in working with children, preferably before introducing their child to any romantic interest and definitely prior to cohabitating. For more on this topic, see ‘Protecting Your Child’s Mental Health in Dating & Cohabitation.’

Speak with a Legal Professional. Due to the potential impact on parental rights, and in some cases even criminal consequences, that can occur when a child is harmed as a result of parental dating or cohabitation, parents should seek advice from a family law attorney whenever there is cause for concern.

If you are a parent and have a question, or need legal assistance in a matter involving child custody, the Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC are here to help you with any family law needs that you may have.

Cohabitation & Dating—Safety Risks and Legal Considerations in Child Custody

When parents are raising a child apart from one another, it can be difficult to determine the best approach to take when addressing matters of their own dating and cohabitation. It is important that parents take measures to ensure the physical safety as well as the mental and emotional health of their child(ren), while also preserving their own legal and parental rights. Presented in two parts, the Gainesville Child Custody Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC discuss potential safety risks and legal issues related to parents dating or cohabitating, followed by some precautions that parents can take to protect their own interests, as well as those of their children.

Child Safety Risks in Dating & Cohabitation

Anytime a parent entrusts the care of their child to another, they have a duty to safeguard the child from harm—to the fullest extent possible—in regard to matters within their control. This duty of protection also extends to circumstances where a parent allows the child to be exposed to other persons, even when they have not entrusted the full responsibility and/or care of that child to another.

Consequently, it is important for parents to be aware of potential safety risks, both at the onset of a new relationship, and more importantly when the decision is made to cohabitate. Parents should ask themselves if there are warning signs, risk factors, or any other concerns whatsoever that my child may be subject or exposed to:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Mental, Emotional, Psychological Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Neglect or Harm
  • Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse
  • Other persons that may cause harm to child
  • Anything else that may negatively impact child’s mental health, well-being, or general safety.

Legal Issues in Dating & Cohabitation

There are a number of legal considerations that parents should be aware of anytime a child is exposed to other persons as a result of a parent’s dating, residential, or cohabitation choices. In fact, because dating and cohabitation can affect the custodial rights of either parent, regardless of which parent is involved in a relationship with a non-parent, it is helpful for parents to consider potential legal issues from each of their respective positions.

From the perspective of the parent that is cohabitating with and/or dating another, it is important to understand the impact that relationship choice can have on their own rights and interests. Parents must remember that in terms of child custody, parental rights, and/or dependency matters, neglecting (or causing detriment) to a child also includes exposing a child, or negligently failing to protect a child from harm caused by another. As such, a parent’s right could be potentially compromised if a child were to be abused, neglected, or harmed in some manner, whether such harm has been inflicted by a significant other that a parent was/is dating, or as a result of exposure to others through such relationship.

On the other hand, in some situations a parent that is sharing custody, may have concerns over the other parent’s dating or cohabitation decisions. For example, where the other parent decides to cohabitate with a partner that has a history of domestic violence or substance abuse, there may be a need to seek modification of custody if exposure to that person may be detrimental to the child’s well-being. Generally speaking, detriment caused by the other parent’s relationship or cohabitation choices is sufficient to establish a substantial, material, and/or unanticipated change in circumstance, for purposes of meeting the statutory requirements for custody modifications.

To continue reading more on this topic, see, ‘Cohabitation & Dating: Preventative & Protective Measures.’

Waldo Florida traffic ticket quota backlash

The city of Waldo, Florida issues a lot of traffic tickets. In fact, Waldo has been designated a speed trap. Waldo traffic ticket cases have attracted national attention recently due to the suspension of the police chief and his replacement. Just days after I blogged about how officers regularly deny the existence of traffic ticket quotas, news broke that the Waldo police chief and a corporal did in fact have and enforce a citation quota. 

Just as anticipated the city manager argued that the quota was only meant to assure that city police officers were staying productive. Frankly, the requirement that the officers issue one citation per hour is hardly motivational. An objective observer of traffic flow would tell you that there are many more than one traffic violation per hour. I actually have had a client pay to monitor a road for speeding violations and the numbers were astronomical. Almost every vehicle was speeding. I once deposed a trooper who monitored I-75. He said that if he was trying to be fast and provided there are no searches or arrests, then he thought he could issue a citation every fifteen minutes all day long. Now that Chief Szabo is suspended and Corporal Ken Smith has resigned, that does not mean Waldo will issue less tickets. It just means the officers will not be subject to quotas.

The number of the quota is not the issue. Traffic quotas are illegal under Florida law. There were other issues reported that led to the resignation. Officer Smith had been appearing in court, whether he appears now is a different matter. Whether your traffic infraction case was from Waldo or any other town in North Florida, call, click or fill out the form at the top right of the page for a consultation into your matter today.

Gainesville (352) 371-9141

Ocala (352) 694-4529

When is there a need for Emergency Intervention in Child Custody Cases: What IS and IS NOT an Emergency

The Family Law Attorneys of Alba & Straile, PLLC understand that co-parenting can be tough no matter what custodial arrangements are in place. When issues arise, it is often difficult for parents to determine when it is necessary to seek legal assistance and/or court intervention. It is important to know what circumstances do and do not constitute an emergency in child custody, child support, and other family-related matters. Although every case is unique and should be assessed on case-by-case basis, it may be helpful for parents to make a preliminary assessment regarding the urgency of an issue through considering four factors: (1) Person affected; (2) Manner affected; (3) Impact; (4) Duration. Each of these have been outlined in further detail below.

Who is the issue affecting?

  • My child(ren)
  • Myself
  • My immediate family (siblings, spouse)
  • My extended family (grandparents, or other relatives)
  • Other person(s)

How, or in what manner is the issue affecting me, my family, or another?

  • Emotionally
  • Mentally
  • Psychologically
  • Physically
  • Sexually
  • Financially
  • Legally

What is the current or future impact on the safety, well-being, or interests of the person affected?

  • Abuse, abandonment, neglect, and/or harm to child
  • Relocation or removing child from state
  • Failure to pay child support
  • Access to or time-sharing with child
  • Domestic Violence; parental safety issues
  • Breach in parenting plan terms

What is the durational impact of the issue or issues involved?

  • Single/Isolated incident
  • Past/Previous issue(s)
  • Continuous, repeated, ongoing issue(s)
  • Potential, anticipated, or imminent risk of future issue(s)

In evaluating the factors above, it is also important to take into consideration your own estimations, beliefs, opinions, and observations based upon your prior or present interactions, relations, or involvement with the other parent. In most child custody cases, particularly those arising out of a divorce, one parent has already developed a fairly good understanding of the propensities and tendencies of the other parent. Let’s explore some examples of what the court commonly recognizes as emergency and non-emergency scenarios…

Issues that are (generally) considered to be emergency:

  • Child has been physically, mentally or emotionally abused by the other parent
  • There is an imminent risk the child will be abused in the future
  • Child was abused or neglected by a cohabitant, caretaker, or another person while in the custody of the other parent, or is in imminent danger of future harm.
  • Parent is legally entitled to access to or time-sharing with child, but other parent refuses to allow contact, or otherwise abide by terms of court-ordered custodial arrangements
  • Other parent removes the child from the state (i.e. wrongful relocation), or has threatened to remove the child, such that there is an imminent risk of the other parent removing/relocating with the child
  • A parent, or other person has serious concern over their safety or well-being (i.e. domestic violence)
  • Any issues involving Child Sexual Abuse

Issues that are (generally) considered to be non-emergency:

  • Insignificant, negligible and/or inconsequential breach in parenting plan;
  • Minor disputes between the parents regarding unanticipated, or newly arising issues, or other matters that were not included with the parenting plan
  • Other issues that the parents are reasonably capable of resolving on their own
  • Parent is late in paying support, or has missed a (single) payment, but that parent has always, or nearly always, abided by their support obligations in the past
  • Issues regarding interpretation of time-sharing plans over upcoming holidays

It is important to keep in mind that every family’s circumstances are different, and in some cases, a seemingly non-emergency situation may actually be more appropriated handled through early intervention. If you are a parent, and have a question or concern regarding child custody, child support, or a related family law issue, contacting an experienced attorney is often the best approach to attaining peace of mind for you and your children. A family law attorney experienced with the judges in your area usually has the best idea what each judge considers an emergency and how best to approach the judge to obtain emergency action.

Proper use of Child Safety Seats: What Every Parent Should Know

While failing to use a child safety seat altogether is both dangerous and unlawful, what the Automobile Collision Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC find even more concerning is that nearly three-quarters of children that are secured in a safety seat, are not buckled in properly. What this tells us is that although many parents are indeed making a valid effort to protect their children and abide by the law, they are either not using the right type of car seat, or the proper seat is being used, but in an improper manner.

Appropriate Seat Choice.

In selecting the proper restraint device, it is important to consider the child’s: (1) Age; (2) Height; and (3) Weight. Other factors may need to be taken into consideration, depending upon the specific needs of a child. For example, where the child has learned how to unlatch the restraint device or wiggle out of the harness or safety straps, a more secure device may be needed.  This is particularly important when the child has a known tendency to free themselves from restraint devices. Although it may be necessary to purchase multiple seats in the carrier and/or booster stages, ensuring the safety of our most precious cargo should always takes precedence.

Proper Installation & Use.

When installing and utilizing a child restraint device, there are several factors that should be considered, including:

  • Seat direction
  • Location of Airbags
  • Harness/ Strap Tightness/Tension
  • Seatbelt Adjustment/ Use of locking clips, keeping in mind the:
    • child’s size
    •  restraint device being used; and
    • vehicle type

Other Device-related issues.

Purchasing or using a previously-owned car or booster seat is never recommended, and for several reasons. Examples of safety concerns include: (1) broken seats; (2) product recalls due to defects; and (3) seats involved in prior accidents. In situations where a previously owned restraint device is used, parents can ensure device safety by:

  • Having the seat inspected at an approved seat-check location; and
  • Routinely checking for consumer product recalls, through official sources such as recalls.gov.

Minimum Requirements pursuant to State Law versus Child Safety.

Although Florida only requires the use of child restraint devices for children through the age of 5, the safety benefits of using a booster seat extend far beyond a child reaching 6 years of age. In fact, the use of restraint devices in children aged 6 or older, although not required by law, can be vital to ensuring the child’s optimal safety, depending on their size, height, weight, or other factors. As provided in FLHSMV’s Child Safety Seat Brochure, the following guidelines should be adhered to whenever traveling with a child in your vehicle:

Age, Weight, Height Range Safety Recommendations
Birth (any weight)-through-1 year old (20 lbs)
  • Use a rear-facing child car seat in the back seat of the car.

1 years old (20+ lbs)-through-4 years old (40 lobs)
  • Use a rear-facing child car seat in the back seat until they outgrow the weight and height limit of the child car seat.
  • Normally when children are over 1 year old and weigh over 20 pounds, you can switch to a forward-facing car seat in the back of the car if you must but rear-facing is best so long as it is within the weight and height limit of the car seat.
4 years old (40+ lbs)-through-8 years (4’9’’ tall)
  • Use a forward-facing child seat in the back seat until they reach the weight and height limits recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Switch to a booster seat in the back of the car.

8 years old or 4’9’’ tall-through-12 years
  • Use a booster seat in the back seat until your child is big enough to use the car’s seat belt.
  • At 13 years old, your child can sit in the front seat of your car.