Archive for the ‘ Domestic Violence ’ Category

What To Do If You Are Experiencing Domestic Violence

Posted on: August 5, 2018 by in Domestic Violence
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Experiencing Domestic Violence

Some people have a hard time defining what domestic violence is. Many believe that domestic violence is purely physical. They believe that if no one has ever laid a hand on them, it’s not something they can define as domestic violence. The truth is domestic violence comes in many different forms besides physical abuse. It’s important to understand what domestic violence is so you can determine if you are experiencing domestic violence. The United States Office on Violence Against Women (otherwise known as the O.V.W.) has recently released an official definition of domestic violence. They define domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” The keywords here are “power and control”. This means that you could be experiencing domestic violence under many different forms of abuse.

 

Defining Domestic Violence

Here are the different forms of abuse that all fall under the category of domestic violence:

 

  • Physical Abuse: This is the most common form of domestic abuse. Hitting, slapping, biting, punching, or kicking are all classified as physical abuse. If someone is keeping you from medical attention, this is also considered physical abuse.
  • Emotional Abuse: This is when the individual seeking power uses criticism to hurt the other person. They’ll usually attack the victim’s self-esteem or self-worth. Name calling, put-downs, and verbal attacks are all considered emotional abuse. The point is to make the victim feel worthless.
  • Psychological Abuse: Psychological abuse is much like emotional abuse, but it can easily go undetected. Usually, the abuser will use fear or intimidation to control a victim. They will often threaten to hurt the victim or themselves. They might use isolation as a tool to control the victim as well. Keeping them from friends, family, work or school could be a sign of psychological abuse.
  • Sexual Abuse: Coercing a partner to have sex or perform sexual acts unwillingly is classified as sexual abuse. It doesn’t matter if you’re married or not. Marital status doesn’t determine if an abuser can force themselves upon a victim. Often, abusers will force sex upon their victims after physical abuse.
  • Economical Abuse: This form of abuse is carried out through financial means. This is when the abuser is trying to exert power by controlling all of the victim’s funds. They’ll often threaten to take food and shelter away or deny them the right to employment.

 

As you can see, domestic violence is much more than just physical abuse. The main concern for the abuser is to gain power and control over their partners or spouses. They can use a number of different forms of abuse to attain this power. If you think you’re experiencing domestic violence, remember to be aware of these various acts that all fall under the umbrella of domestic violence.

 

What To Do When Experiencing Domestic Violence

A common phrase that many victims of domestic violence hear is, “just leave”. Unfortunately, it’s never that simple. Those who have experienced domestic violence understand that there are many variables that could be holding you back. However, if your life is being threatened, you need to contact help immediately and devise an exit strategy. Hotlines like 800-799-SAFE can be a helpful resource for victims. It’s also important to have a trustworthy family attorney involved so you can be aware of your rights. If you are experiencing domestic violence, you need to be ready when you have the opportunity to leave.

Here are some tips to remember when making a plan to exit an abusive relationship:

  • Have a set location. Determine a safe place that you can go to that your abuser is unaware of or won’t suspect. Contact a friend or family member that can help you identify where you should go. Consider contacting shelters, police stations, or fire stations to help you find your safe place.
  • Have money set aside. Ask a friend or family member if you can borrow money. Be sure that the abuser doesn’t know where it is or who is helping you.
  • Have a bag packed with essentials and leave it with a friend or family member. Try not to leave an escape bag in the house. Be sure to have a set of clothes, important documents, and/or medication if necessary.
  • Have a code word with friends or family so they know when you’re in a moment of danger.
  • When researching help and setting a plan, never use a computer or laptop that the abuser also has access to. Use computers at local libraries or community centers so they’re not aware of your browsing history.
  • Be sure to memorize phone numbers of crisis hotlines and close friends and family so you can contact them from any phone.

Fighting Back Against Domestic Assault

Posted on: February 16, 2018 by in Domestic Violence
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domestic assault

Your home should be your safe place. The place that you go to for comfort and relaxation. For many, their home is not secure and can be a terrifying place. This situation is often because of domestic assault. A house doesn’t feel like a home if someone is making you worried that you could be harmed, yelled at, belittled, or made to feel as though you’re trapped. Understanding what domestic assault is, and what happens if you live in a home with domestic violence can be a good starting point for making the decision to get protected.

What Is Domestic Assault?

Domestic assault is an act of violence or the threat of violence against someone that’s family or lives in the same household. Often, spousal abuse is the most commonly thought of domestic assault, but this aggression can be done against other individuals. This action can be against a family member that is related by blood or marriage, roommates, and even people that are or were dating. Florida law covers domestic aggression as assault, battery, sexual assault, stalking, and kidnapping.

What Are Some Various Examples?

There are quite a few examples that fall under domestic aggressive. Any type of violent behavior can be a domestic assault. Slapping, biting, shoving, hitting, and punching are all examples of physical abuse. Making the victim believe that there’s a threat of harm is another form of assault. Feigning a punch or going forward like the person would slap you are both assaults. The threat of violence is there.

Sexual abuse is another form of domestic assault. Coercion and coercion attempts for sex or sexual contact are assault. No means no whether you’re in a consensual relationship or not. This idea can be hard for some to comprehend. Consent is always required whether it’s on the first date or after being married for years.    

Is It Just Physical?

No, domestic assault is not just physical. In fact, legally assault is just the threat of harm. There can also often be an emotional and economic component to it. Abusers in these situations are usually working on the psychological well-being of the person they abuse. They may try to tear down the self-worth and self-esteem of the person they are abusing as this can help to keep the abused person in the abusive relationship. The abuser can also work to make the person financial reliant on them. The victim doesn’t have money to move out or get away from the abuser, so the abuser keeps them pretty much trapped in the relationship through this methodology.

How Can One Fight Back Against Domestic Assault?

The best way to fight back against domestic assault is to speak up. Keep track of the abuse. Document everything and anything. Keep any threatening notes, emails, texts, and other information that can help you to prove your case. Report the abuse to the authorities. Do what you can to get out of the abusive situation. Get legal assistance to help you protect yourself. Lawyers experienced in domestic assault cases can often help you with resources, such as finding a shelter or getting assistance to get out of the situation. These are the best things that you can do for yourself if you find yourself caught up in an abusive relationship because it’s all about being proactive.

What Are Some Sentences of Domestically Assaulting Someone?

Florida allows for domestic violence to be addressed by the family court, but depending on the case, can also result in the criminal courts becoming involved. Many states are starting to take this crime seriously, Florida included.

In Florida, domestic violence laws include at the minimum a punishment of five days in jail, but the courts can also sentence the offender to prison time. It may also result in probation or community service. Furthermore, offenders can see additional charges for other crimes, such as assault and battery. Sentences for this can be 60 days to a year in prison for misdemeanor crimes, and up to 15 years for felonies.  

How Can Victims Find Reassurance and Stability to Move Forward?  

The good news is that legal professionals are willing and able to assist victims in moving forward in their lives and leaving behind the situation. You may feel that you have no proof and that it’s your word against your abuser, but talking to a legal professional can help you in determining what the next step should be. You should also look into joining any local support groups in your area. They can get you in touch with services that can also help you in feeling comfortable and confident in yourself to take that next step forward.

If you or a loved one is living in a situation where domestic assault occurs, contact Lewert Law to discuss your case. It can be hard to take the steps you need to protect yourself, but with the right support system, you’ll make it through.

4 Ways A Domestic Violence Lawyer Can Help You Stay Safe

Posted on: March 21, 2017 by in Domestic Violence
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domestic violence lawyer

Finding A Dometic Violence Lawyer

In the 20 minutes it takes to read this article, a person in the United States suffers from physical abuse by their partner. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) estimates more than 10 million women and men are victims of domestic violence. Additionally, physical violence by an intimate partner affects 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men within their lifetime.

These are sobering statistics, but if you are a victim of domestic violence, it helps to know you are not alone. What helps, even more, is a domestic violence lawyer that helps you out of a terrible situation. Additionally, a domestic violence lawyer fights for you and your children so you can leave a dangerous, life threatening environment and focus on healing. There are several ways a domestic violence lawyer can keep you safe.

 

1. A Domestic Violence Lawyer Supports and Represents You in the Court of Law

Your domestic violence lawyer needs to be competent in four areas. They must have a complete understanding of:

  1. the law regarding family violence,
  2. domestic violence itself and its dynamics,
  3. cultural issues relating to the representation of a victim of domestic violence, and
  4. collateral legal issues and litigation.

With this knowledge, your attorney acts as your advocate in court. Furthermore, they obtain and complete required documents and deal with the abusive party, so you don’t have to. Abuse is traumatic; you don’t want to go into court and face your abuser alone. Finally, a competent domestic violence attorney deals with the opposing party and fights for you throughout the legal process.

 

2. A Domestic Violence Lawyer Obtains a Protection Order

You may know it better as a “restraining order.” This protective legal action allows you to call the police if the abuser breaks any aspect of the protection order. Therefore, a restraining order helps keep you safe and supports your domestic violence case. Notwithstanding, there are various provisions available within an order of protection:

  • No contact – Prohibits the abuser from any contact with the victim. This includes emailing, texting, calling, attacking, stalking, hitting, or disturbing you in any physical way.
  • Peaceful contact – If your case involves children, a peaceful contact provision allows the abuser to communicate regarding the care and transfer of the child.
  • Stay away – A judge orders the abuser to stay a certain amount of distance away from the victim whether it be the person, their home, job, school, or car. A judge typically defines this range in an amount of yards or feet.
  • Move out – If the parties share a home, the abuser leaves.
  • Firearms – The abuser surrenders any guns they own and cannot purchase another firearm throughout the duration of the case.
  • Counseling – This provision order the abuser to attend batterer’s intervention, anger management, or another form of counseling.

 

3. A Domestic Violence Lawyer Files Your Lawsuits

In cases of domestic violence, there tend to be two lawsuits you want to submit: divorce and a domestic violence lawsuit. If you are legally married, your domestic violence attorney assists you throughout the divorce process. They support your right to alimony and oversee the division of marital property. On the other hand, a domestic violence lawsuit allows the victim to receive compensation for medical expenses, financial loss, and suffering caused by spousal abuse.

You need an attorney that files both lawsuits if needed. Additionally, your domestic violence lawyer takes care of the legal jargon and walks you through the stressful processes.

 

4. A Domestic Violence Lawyer Protects Your Children

If your relationship involves children, the domestic violence case is intrinsically more challenging. So, your domestic violence attorney protects your kids if they are in danger of abuse. Additionally, they fight for custody of the child for you. Furthermore, they obtain child support from the other parent, so you have the financial assistance to raise the child in a healthy environment.

Are you a victim of domestic violence or emotional abuse? Contact Lewert Law, LLC or call, free of charge, at 561-220-0123. Attorney Tina L. Lewert and her team fight for their clients’ safety in cases of domestic abuse.

 

 

Can Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody in Florida?

Posted on: August 25, 2016 by in Domestic Violence
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Boca Raton Child Support Lawyer

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a quarter of the women in our nation are the targets of spousal abuse or violence at least once in their lifetimes. Every year in the U.S., nearly one million incidents of domestic abuse are reported in this country, and 85 percent of those incidents are reported by women. Family law judges understand the effect that domestic violence has on children, and judges are reluctant to place a child in the custody of a parent with a history of abuse. Most states have laws requiring judges to consider domestic violence when making child custody decisions in a divorce proceeding.

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This is a general introduction to the impact of domestic violence on child custody decisions in the state of Florida. Of course, if you are a parent who is involved in a child custody battle, or if you are a parent who is anticipating an upcoming divorce and custody dispute, in South Florida you’ll want to discuss the particulars of your own situation with an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO RESOLVE A CHILD CUSTODY DISPUTE?

If you are divorcing and you are a parent in Florida, it is best to resolve any child custody dispute before you go to court if you possibly can. If both parents agree on a custody plan – and if there is no history or evidence of domestic violence – a judge will typically sign off on the agreement. However, if a child custody dispute remains unresolved, a judge will make a final child custody determination for the parents.

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It’s never a good idea to have a stranger decide what’s best for your child. Of course, reaching an agreement is not always possible, especially when a divorce is emotionally-charged or involves domestic violence. In a divorce in Florida, family law judges determine two distinct aspects of custody. “Legal” custody is assigned to the parent who will make educational, medical, religious, and other important decisions for the child. “Physical” custody refers to the child’s living and visitation arrangements with each parent. When deciding child custody cases, judges in Florida consider a number of factors including:

  • each parent’s parenting abilities
  • each parent’s relationship with the child
  • each parent’s character (or “moral fitness”)
  • each parent’s mental and physical health
  • each parent’s knowledge of the child’s friends, teachers, and activities
  • each parent’s willingness to communicate with the other about the child
  • the parents’ current division of responsibilities for the child
  • either parent’s issues with drugs or alcohol
  • the child’s current home, school, and community
  • the child’s preference
  • any evidence of domestic violence, abuse, abandonment, or neglect
  • false testimony provided by either parent regarding domestic violence, abuse, abandonment, or neglect

HOW DOES FLORIDA DEFINE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

According to Florida Supreme Court Mediator and Mediation Trainer Elinor Robin, Ph.D., “We don’t use the term custody anymore in Florida. When parents share time with their children it is confusing and misleading to insinuate that either parent has custody – a word that implies one person is in possession all the time. With that said, domestic violence may impact the time sharing plan that a judge orders as well as the plan for parental decision making. Then again, it may not.”

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Under the law in Florida, domestic violence is defined as any assault, battery, sexual abuse, stalking, kidnapping, or any other criminal offense by one household member or family member against another that results in injury or death. Even if the couple is not married or no longer live together, any violence between the parties will still be defined by the state of Florida as domestic violence.

Anyone who is in immediate fear for your own personal safety or who becomes a victim of domestic violence should call the police at once and make a report. If you fear more domestic violence in the future, you can probably obtain a temporary “Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence” – a restraining order – from your county circuit court, and you don’t have to have an attorney’s help. The injunction orders the abuser to cease all violence and threats and to stay away from you or risk jail.

According to Joseph E. Cordell, Principal Partner of international domestic litigation firm Cordell & Cordell, “Domestic abuse charges and resulting orders of protection are often used as tactical nuclear weapons in divorce. From forcing the accused out of their home to preventing them from contacting their children, the ramifications of having a restraining order filed against you are immense. While the intention is to keep people safe from dangerous situations, the lack of evidence required to obtain an order of protection and the advantages it gives to the party filing the charges creates a system that is easily exploited through false claims.”

Cordell adds that, “The initial protection order can have a large influence on parenting time with children. This can be significant if children are young, and a lack of contact affects the relationship with the kids. If the court determines that a person is violent or unsafe, it can severely impact parenting time on a permanent basis and also prevent equal decision-making for the children. It is often impossible to get back into your home once you have been forced out, and the protection order can not only impact custody of your children, but also property division and many other contested aspects of the divorce.”

To obtain an Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence, go to the county circuit court clerk’s office and ask for a “Petition for an Injunction for Protection.” You can go to the circuit court in the county where you reside, where the abuser resides, or where the abuse took place. After you complete the form, you will meet with a judge who will issue – or in rare cases refuse to issue – a temporary injunction.

Although obtaining an Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence does not necessarily require an attorney’s help, you’ll probably want the insights and guidance of a family law attorney as soon as possible, because a temporary injunction is only the beginning. The issuance of a temporary injunction also means that a hearing must be scheduled. You and the abuser will both be required to appear. At this hearing, a judge can extend the injunction for a full year.

FOR WHAT REASONS CAN A PARENT’S CUSTODY RIGHTS BE DENIED?

In a divorce or a post-divorce custody dispute, Florida judges typically presume that both parents should share child custody unless evidence is presented that shared custody would be disadvantageous to the child. However, if either parent has been convicted of domestic violence, the courts then presume that the convicted parent should not have any custody rights. If that parent wants custody, he or she will have to offer to the court reasons why custody should be granted despite the domestic violence conviction(s).

Florida judges additionally presume that a parent with any criminal conviction – at any time or in any state – for sexual abuse, sexual battery, kidnapping, incest, lewd behavior, indecent exposure, or child abuse should not be allowed custody or visitation with a child. And even if neither parent has a domestic violence conviction, a Florida family law judge will consider any evidence of domestic violence or child abuse.

In a custody case where one parent has a criminal conviction for domestic violence or a related crime, the court will determine if that parent and the child should have any contact whatsoever. Before allowing any contact between a child and a parent convicted of domestic violence or a related crime, a judge must be persuaded that the child’s safety and health will not be endangered.

If a judge determines the child’s best interests are served by having contact with a parent convicted of domestic violence or a related crime, the judge may order supervised visitation arrangements to ensure the child is protected. The judge can also order the parent to pay for any costs related to the supervision of visitations. In extreme cases, a Florida court may determine that it is in a child’s best interests to sever the parent-child relationship and terminate that parent’s parental rights. Parental rights in Florida may be terminated when a parent:

  • is a sexual predator or a violent career criminal
  • has sexually abused or has committed aggravated child abuse against the child
  • has a first- or second-degree murder conviction
  • has committed a sexual battery that is charged as a first-degree felony
  • has conspired with a third party to murder the other parent or another child

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In the state of Florida, legal help is abundant for those are divorcing and for those who are targets of domestic violence. An experienced Boca Raton family law attorney can provide parents in South Florida with legal assistance in divorces, custody battles, and domestic violence cases. Of course, the top priority is your safety and your child’s. If you anticipate domestic violence or become its victim, find a way to get to a safe place – now or as quickly as you can – and then contact a family law attorney – or at least call one of the domestic abuse hotlines – and get some sound advice for your immediate future.

Leaving An Abusive Relationship: How To Protect Yourself

Posted on: July 29, 2016 by in Domestic Violence
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Boca Raton divorce lawyer

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States. More women are injured by domestic violence than by car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Anyone who is in an abusive relationship that is turning violent has one priority: Get out. Get to a place where you and your kids are safe. Most battered spouses are women, but if you are a man, the recommendations offered here will apply equally to you.

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The point at which a woman decides to leave an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time in that relationship. If you are the abused spouse or partner, you will need to find shelter where that the abuser can’t locate you – at a battered women’s shelter or perhaps with an acquaintance that the abuser doesn’t know. Don’t go where he’s sure to look, like your best friend’s home or your parents’ house.

If you are able to plan your departure in advance, try to set aside some cash where it can’t be found. You might even consider stashing some extra clothes, important papers, and other items at a friend’s house – somewhere those items will not be found – in case you have to make a swift departure. Keep a note or record of every incident of abuse that you and/or your kids are subjected to; note the date, time, and precisely what happened. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence also recommends that you:

  • Keep a contact list of “safe” people.
  • Memorize the telephone numbers of people you may need to call for help.
  • Keep quarters for a pay phone, as you may be without a cell phone.
  • Keep cash for living expenses as well.
  • Establish a code word with family and friends so that you can tell them to call for help without alerting the abuser.

WHAT SHOULD YOU TAKE WHEN YOU LEAVE AN ABUSER?

You must also think about taking some documents with you. The right paperwork will be required if you choose to take legal action or apply for public benefits. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence recommends taking your credit cards and checkbook as well as taking:

  • your Social Security card
  • your birth certificate
  • copies of insurance policies, deeds, and leases
  • proof of income for yourself and your partner such as copies of W-2 forms or pay stubs
  • anything that proves abuse, such as police reports, medical records, and photographs

If you have to leave your home quickly, immediately go to court for a protective order to keep the abuser away from you. If you have the ability, it’s best to hire an attorney at this time. In South Florida, an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney can help. If you have children, be sure the protective order specifically gives you custody. Otherwise, you could actually be suspected of kidnapping.

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A restraining order is a court document that orders an abusive spouse or partner to refrain from specific behavior (such as touching you, contacting you, or coming near you), and it also orders the abusive spouse or partner to perform other actions (such as leaving your home and paying you temporary child support). You do not have to testify, and the abusive spouse or partner does not need to be present. If a restraining order is violated, the police may arrest and charge the abusive spouse or partner with violating the order.

HOW LONG ARE RESTRAINING ORDERS GOOD FOR?

When a restraining order is issued in Florida, a court hearing is scheduled within fifteen days. At that hearing, a judge will decide whether to give you a “final” restraining order. The final order is typically good for a year and may be modified or dissolved at that time or a later time. If you do not qualify for an injunction for protection against domestic violence, discuss your options with your attorney.

If you can’t immediately afford legal counsel, a number of free resources are available, particularly in Florida. There are 1,500 shelters for battered women in the United States, and more than a few in South Florida. Shelter personnel are usually trained to help abuse victims fill out basic legal forms. You can request a restraining order in Florida without an attorney’s help if you cannot afford an attorney.

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Whether you have to bolt unexpectedly or have time to plan, you must take some measures to stay safe as soon as you are out of the abuser’s reach. Change your cell phone number at once, and don’t answer it if you don’t know who’s calling. Be sure that your new phone number is unlisted and blocked. Also, consider renting a post office box or having mail sent to the address of a friend.

If the abuser tries to get in touch with you, keep a record of when, where, how, and what happened. If you obtained a restraining order – in Florida it’s called an “injunction for protection against domestic violence” – keep it on your person at all times. Call the police or your attorney at once if the terms of the order are violated. Additional suggestions from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence include:

  • If you are staying in the home, change the locks. Do not stay by yourself.
  • Frequently change your daily routine.
  • Wherever you are or go, have a plan for getting away if the abuser confronts you.
  • If you must meet with the abuser, meet publicly, and let people know where you are.

WHAT ABOUT ABUSERS WITH VISITATION RIGHTS?

If you share custody of your children with an abusive partner or spouse, arrange neutral pickup sites and have someone with you, or ask others to pick up and drop off your kids. If the abuser doesn’t have to know where you are staying, don’t divulge that information. If you have sole custody of your child or children but the abusive spouse or partner has visitation rights, you can ask the court for supervised visitation and other restrictions. If a restraining order is operative, or it’s not safe to be where your spouse or partner is, meet at a public place for visitation exchanges. The local police station is as good a choice as any.

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Nothing is more important than your life and the lives of your children. Take the steps that you need to take to keep you and your child or children alive and safe. If you need more details about domestic violence and restraining orders in Florida, or if you need legal representation regarding any matter of family law, an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney may be able to help, but the first move is yours and yours alone.

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Kelley Ms. Lewert never lost sight of the practical realities of my divorce. Although she listened compassionately so that she understood what she needed to, she did not let me lose sight of my goals and what was acheivable within the system even when things got emotional. She protected my financial interests and my personal interests. Thanks to Ms. Lewert, I no longer have to deal with a difficult ex-. She didn't always tell me what I wanted to hear, but because of that, my case did not drag out longer than it should have. I never felt that she put her own interests ahead of mine. Her judgment was reasonable and her advice sound. She and her staff were good at dealing with difficult and unreasonable people in a professional and ethical way. Thanks to Ms. Lewert, I never got drawn into senseless battles, recovered as quickly as possible from my divorce and was able to move on and enjoy a better life. I have recommended her repeatedly to others who need an excellent family lawyer.

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