Dorsey Law Firm

April 25, 2019

CHILD ABUSE/SEXUAL ASSAULT & WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

April is Child Abuse Prevention & Sexual Assault Awareness month. As former prosecutors, my father, William Dorsey, and myself understand the serious nature and implications of the allegations, as well as the necessity for a thorough investigation during the initial stages. Many times, these crimes do not have forensic evidence or witness testimony to corroborate the allegations. Instead, prosecutors must often weight the credibility of victim testimony alone when making a decision, many times relying solely on the statements of a minor child. Sadly, crimes like child abuse and sexual assault are typically committed in secrecy, the victims often harboring the pain for months (or even years) before even opening up regarding what has happened in their past. On the other end of the spectrum, and also terribly disturbing, are when claims of abuse are alleged to spite another person, even though completely untrue. In both situations, it is incumbent upon law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges to be extremely qualified to how to handle such matters. Experience in these cases can literally make the difference between the truth revealed or a grave injustice, if not handled properly.

While it is impossible to fully explain how much work goes into these cases, it can help to have a general knowledge about what to expect throughout the various stages of investigation. Fortunately, at the Dorsey Law Firm, the attorneys there have dealt with hundreds of these type cases over the years and are equipped to give you the information you’ll need when deciding whether to hire an attorney or not. In particular, I actually served as a prosecutor for over fifteen years, working five years of that time in a specialized division that handled these complex cases. Doing so, meant working alongside several of the agencies that are tasked with helping solve child abuse and sexual assault allegations. In fact, because of my work in that Special Assault Unit, in 2010 I was selected by the Mayor as the recipient of the Judicial Victim Advocate Award, which goes to the top advocate for victims in the judicial system. With that unique knowledge in mind, it allows me to give critical legal advise to both victims and alleged suspects in these type crimes.

If a minor child is involved, then mandatory reporting laws necessarily come into play. Doctors, teachers, therapists and many others all have a legal duty (and a moral responsibility) to report incidents of alleged child abuse. The Sheriff’s Office is likely the first agency to learn of the allegations and investigate the claims. Most times, the Sheriff’s Office will have a dedicated unit, often times called a Sexual Assault or Special Assault Department, with detectives who have extensive training and experience solving these crimes. That detective will gather as much information from the child victim, the child victims parents and any other likely witnesses before making a decision. But as mentioned above, these crimes are often committed in secrecy so corroborating evidence may be limited. Fortunately, many jurisdictions have dedicated places to take the victims, which allow for experts to conduct medical exams and interviews, with information that oftentimes either supplements or potentially even disproves the allegations. Locally, for child victims, this is called the First Coast Child Protection Team (“CPT”), and it is overseen by the University of Florida. For adults, it is the Sexual Assault Response Center or “SARC”.

While by no means the sole determining factor, if penetration or trauma is alleged, a doctor will conduct a medical exam. In addition to documenting any injuries or tears, the doctor will also collect any potential forensic evidence such as the presence of foreign DNA samples. This is what’s commonly referred to as a “Sexual Assault Kit” in the practice of law. This Sexual Assault Kit will then be sent to a lab, analyzed and ultimately the results will be turned over to the law enforcement agency for further evidential consideration. But just because a victim has alleged penetration, does not mean there will be DNA. In fact, often a significant amount of time has passed between the date of the offense and the time of reporting. Or, perhaps the victim has showered in the interim, which eliminates the possibility of finding any traces of foreign DNA. When circumstances such as that occur, law enforcement will still have the interview tape/notes from the trained CPT or SARC worker to reference, and oftentimes that trained interviewer will even provide an expert opinion as to the allegations for consideration.

And then, of course, if a child is the victim the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) will be involved as well. They too are trained in interviewing and investigating child abuse incidents. While CPT is focused more on interviewing solely minor victims and their family members,
DCF’s interview process can be more in-depth, including interviewing even the alleged suspect. These statements may also be admissible in court later on, even statements that an alleged perpetrator has made. So, it’s incredibly important that if a claim of abuse is made against you, that you speak to an attorney before giving statements regarding the matter to either law enforcement or DCF or to anyone else wishing to interrogate you regarding the situation. Again, these cases are incredibly complex. Investigations can last for months before a decision is even made by law enforcement as to whether to make an arrest. There are so many other factors involved, many of which I haven’t even touched upon. And so if you or a loved one or someone you know is either a victim of this type of crime or is alleged to be a suspect in one, it is extremely wise to consult an attorney who can help explain your circumstances and what to expect and what you should do in greater detail.

April 12, 2019

7 Things A Divorce Lawyer Wishes People Knew

Most people know divorce is a process, and it can be a complicated and expensive one at times, whether it is handled inside the courtroom or mediation. The divorce process, however, can be easier and better for people with the right preparation and knowledge.

The Dorsey Law Firm wanted to share some things divorce lawyers wish couples and people knew before reaching out to a lawyer or starting the divorce process. The below tips can be really helpful in making the process go more smoothly for you, your partner, and your lawyer.

Your attorney is an attorney not a therapist – When you go through a divorce, we understand a lot of emotions are involved. We respect your thoughts and feelings. However, divorce attorneys do not have the background, training, or skills to help you work through your emotions – you are not hiring an attorney for this reason. It’s in your best interest to talk to family, friends, or schedule an appointment with a therapist to talk things out. It’s also best not to keep your lawyer around longer than needed… you’ll rack up a bill!

Organization is key – By being organized, you will help you lawyer and yourself start and run through the process more easily and faster, which will save you money. You should sort out all of your paperwork in chronological order, labeled, and even type a summary of your documentation. Otherwise, you are paying your lawyer to sort through your paperwork, which can be a waste of time can money.

Be prepared – Your attorney will let you know what documents are needed. Show up with these documents. If you aren’t prepared, work will be delayed. If paperwork is missing, your attorney can’t do his/her job as well for you. If your attorney says he/she needs something, do your best to get it to them! You want the best outcome for yourself.

Be honest with your lawyer – It is ultimately not in your best interest to lie to your lawyer. He/she needs all the facts to do the job well and right. Don’t omit. Don’t exaggerate. Don’t minimize. Etc. Etc. Tell the truth, and your attorney will work hard to get you the best results, especially when there are no surprises (from any lies).

Admit When You Don’t Know Something – You didn’t go to law school. You aren’t a practicing divorce lawyer. Divorce lawyers don’t expect you to know everything or even anything about the divorce process, so speak up if you don’t understand something. You and your lawyer need to be on the same page for things to move forward and work in your favor.

Reveal it all – It’s no secret that divorce lawyers have heard lots of things from their clients. It’s your job to reveal all important and relatable details to the case. Don’t worry about being embarrassed – everything is strictly professional, and likely, your attorney has heard worse.

Be upfront about what you want out of the divorce – Let your attorney know right off the bat what your goal is. Do you want a certain property? What’s your custody stance for your children? You want to win things you actually want.

Looking for a Jacksonville Divorce Attorney?

No one wants to go through the divorce process – it isn’t the easiest, and (obviously) not fun. If you come prepared, listen, be honest, manage expectations, and work with your divorce attorney, you will have a better experience.
At Dorsey Law Firm, we are knowledgeable in divorce and family law in Jacksonville and we will do our best work for you. We will stand by your side and give you the best legal advice possible. Our firm provides aggressive and expert representation for our clients to achieve the best outcome.

William J. Dorsey founded the Dorsey Law Firm in 1975 and has practiced family law and tried numerous trials throughout Florida in state and federal courts. The law firm also practices criminal law and personal injury law.
Dorsey and his team work with clients through every step of the divorce process. To request an in-person consultation at The Dorsey Law Firm’s Jacksonville Law Office, call 904-346-3883 or click our Jacksonville Divorce Attorney page for more information. The law firm has represented clients in Duval, Clay, St. Johns, and Nassau Counties, and has tried cases throughout all of Florida.

March 14, 2019

Should I Try Mediation or Go Straight to a Divorce Lawyer?

If a divorce is inevitably in your near future, you’ve probably thought about hiring a divorce lawyer. However, is it possible that mediation would work for you instead? And, what is mediation, exactly?

Mediation is the process of when a neutral third party helps a couple sort out and resolve issues related to the divorce. In a divorce, there are many decisions that need to be made and the mediator guides the couple through these decisions. Mediation is known to be a less stressful process than going to court with a divorce lawyer. Often, people prefer to do mediation when there is a child or children involved.

Is Mediation Right for Me or Should I Not Bother?

When you meet with a mediator, this person cannot give you legal advice, even if they are a lawyer working as a mediator. Unless you hire them as a lawyer, they cannot give you legal advice and they do not represent you or your spouse. What the mediator can do is give suggestions on how to resolve issues on decisions regarding important issues like children or finances, so a judge doesn’t have to make the decision.

With mediation, all decisions will be made about the divorce without going to court. If the couple can come to a final agreement, the mediator can prepare the agreement and help the couple fill out the proper divorce forms.

Without going to court and doing a lot of your own paperwork, mediation is a lot less costly than seeking legal counsel. However, through the mediation, each party can seek legal advice from a lawyer on things such as child support, debt, alimony, etc.

Overall, mediation is seen as an easier way to make a divorce happen. If you believe you and your spouse can agree on most issues, then mediation will work for you. The mediation process is less daunting and less emotionally draining for all parties involved, including children if there are any. If you are unable to sit down or meet with your spouse, mediation cannot work for you and separate divorce attorneys will need to be hired.

There are also many other reasons mediation may not work for you including:

  • You’re in a hurry. Mediation isn’t a fast process.
  • You don’t wish your spouse well. If you do not care about your spouse’s well being and do not care about his/her point of view, mediation won’t work for you.
  • If you can’t advocate for yourself or speak up, mediation will not work.
  • You had a violent relationship.
  • You don’t want to settle.

If you can work together with your spouse to reach a final agreement, mediation will work for you. The process will be less stressful for both of you and the children (if any).

Looking for a Mediator or Divorce Lawyer in Jacksonville, FL?

Through mediation, the hope is to help you and your spouse make decisions that lead to a final agreement in an easier, cheaper, less-stressful way than a traditional court divorce. If you think mediation would work for you, talk to your spouse about it before deciding to go to court.

At Dorsey Law Firm, we are knowledgeable in divorce and family law and we will do our best work for you by communicating about what you expect, conveying your needs in mediation or court, and convincing the judge or opposition to acquiesce or compromise.

Through mediation, we can help a client make better decisions for their future.

William J. Dorsey founded the Dorsey Law Firm in 1975 and has practiced family law and tried numerous trials throughout Florida in state and federal courts. The law firm also practices criminal law and personal injury law.

Dorsey and his team work with clients every step of the divorce process, whether they choose mediation or to go to court. To request your in-person consultation at The Dorsey Law Firm’s Jacksonville Law Office, call 904-346-3883 or click our Jacksonville Divorce Attorney page for more information.

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