Preventing Another House of Horrors: Reporting abuse, neglect and exploitation

Family law horror stories continue to shock us. Twelve children are found handcuffed, prisoners of their parents. ‘Child support’ takes on the opposite meaning in shocking cases as parents deny their offspring basic necessities like food and clothing. In situations like the above, typical family law issues like visitation and spousal support take a backseat to restraining orders and foster care. The general public is left to ask the same sad question regardless of individual circumstance: How could this happen?


We at the Coleman Law Group wish we had the answer. What we can offer is suggestions for action. Here’s how to identify whether a child is in an unsafe situation, how to report it, and what to do to help those who are hurt heal.


Define the situation. Concerned that your neighbor’s disciplinary method for his toddler doesn’t mesh with your hands-off ‘time out’ policy? Keep in mind that the practice of spanking does not necessarily indicate abuse. Corporal punishment that does not lead to a child’s harm is not punishable. You can disagree with your neighbor’s method of punishment for Junior’s shortcomings. However, it is not against the law.


Abuse is present if a child is hurt or threatened with hurt that affects their physical and emotional wellbeing. Withdrawing food and other basic necessities also constitutes abuse and neglect. Neglect raises another red flag and needs to be identified and shared with authorities. Do you believe a child is not receiving essential items like medicine? Are they left alone without supervision?


If you suspect abuse or neglect, report it. You can share your concern online at Florida Department of Children and Families You can also call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 800-962-2873. Be prepared to share as much information as you can, including ages of those involved, what you have witnessed, etc. A list of helpful items to know is found at Reporting via fax is an option as well.

If you don’t have all the information requested by the Florida Department of Children and Families, call the number anyway. It’s better to err on the side of caution and report the incident. Also, if you believe imminent danger is possible, call the number and forego the online form. Your personal information will be kept confidential – and you may save someone’s life. Please note that the information shared above is also pertinent for other neglect or abuse situations, such as abuse or neglect of the elderly.

We’ll never know why some people choose to neglect, abuse or exploit others. However, we can take action when evidence of such action (or inaction) is present. Further help abused and neglected children by becoming a guardian ad litem and advocate for minors in court. Coleman Law Group founder Constance Coleman is herself an attorney ad litem, and she is dedicated to helping children find peace at the end of their legal journey. Learn more at

Happily Ever Separated “When Mediated Divorce is the Best Way to Uncouple”


Ready to file for divorce in Florida? Take the following quick quiz to learn whether a mediated divorce proceeding guided by a Florida family law attorney acting as mediator is your best bet to happily ever separated. Which of the following descriptions best describes your situation?


  1. a) As divorcing spouses, my partner and I understand and agree that the welfare of our children is paramount. We would like to complete the Florida divorce proceedings as quickly as legally possible, and are willing to work out the details of our divorce and child support/custody in a clear and concise manner.
  2. b) We can’t be in the same room as one another. If I ask my spouse to meet me at a Florida family law firm, he won’t show up – and if he did, we would just start shouting anyway. Nothing would get resolved. Domestic violence and/or drugs/alcohol abuse have been an issue in our household.
  3. c) My spouse and I have very different beliefs and disagree sharply on matters, but we would both like to divorce quickly and with the least possible legal costs involved.


If you answered ‘a’ or even ‘c’, you’re in luck: a divorce with a mediator assisting may be just what you need. Read onward to learn the gist of divorce mediation in Florida. You can expect:


  • Control – You and your spouse will decide the terms of your settlement. A judge will not enter the picture unless mediation fails and you are forced to go to court to ultimately obtain your divorce.


  • Cooperation – The goal of divorce mediation is to forge agreements that are acceptable to both parties.


  • Collaboration and Privacy – During mediation, both parties have a chance to express their needs and preferences in a comfortable, non-threatening environment where privacy is protected.


A mediator is a neutral third party who identifies legal issues that need to be resolved and give you information about family law statutes. The mediator does not pass judgments, make decisions for you or give legal advice. Take note that mediation isn’t synonymous with ‘lack of representation’; each party may still opt to have a lawyer advise them if they wish.


A mediator can help you work through child custody agreements and; understand and schedule division spousal maintenance. The mediator can suggest options for resolving these matters and other applicable challenges – and once an agreement is reached, they will draw up the paperwork necessary for a binding settlement.


-That’s it. A traditional divorce can drag on and on; a mediator often helps spouses reach agreement within a few weeks or months. Because of the quick turnaround, mediated divorces typically cost much less. Avoiding huge attorney fees while coming to a mutually beneficial agreement with your once-partner is the best-case scenario.


For couples in the St. Petersburg, Tampa or Land O’ Lakes areas, The Coleman Law Group can help you decide if divorce mediation is right for you. Make an appointment with one of our caring, compassionate family law attorneys. There is life after divorce – we can help you discover it quickly and amicably through mediation.

Response to Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has left us reeling. Yes, we are hurting. We are mothers, aunts, friends; the thought that a gunman could open fire on the children we hold most dear while they attend school is an unbelievable horror.

We do not shake our heads and wonder What can be done? No, we do not ask questions that are swallowed by the air. We demand something be done. One more life lost because of a war-ready weapon in the hands of an unstable individual is too many. We look to our firm’s motto, where power meets passion, for inspiration to act. It’s time to use our collective voices as a powerful, passionate catalyst of change.

We, the lawyers of the Coleman Law Group, suggest the following course of action:

Decide what you believe – and fight for it. Do you believe the United States Constitution should be followed to the exact letter? Read the second amendment. Now, take a close look at your belief in the all-encompassing right to bear arms. Remember that when the constitution was written, people armed themselves with muskets – not semi-automatic weapons capable of mass killing.

Take that realization and avoid marring it with extreme views. Americans are historically open to ‘gray area’ compromises. We’re a melting pot, after all, and that has meant a merging of opinions and beliefs since our country’s inception. If you believe that no one in the United States should own any type of gun, rethink your stance. That’s not going to happen. The opposite view that we are entitled to every type of firearm is misguided as well. Decide upon a reasonable point of view.

What is not reasonable is detailed in a recent article printed by the New York Times found here.  In Florida, an AR15 is easier to acquire than a handgun. We find this to be grossly negligent. These guns should be difficult to obtain, not a near-impulse purchase. And people who have been shown to be a possible danger to themselves and others should not be able to purchase them.

To us, this just makes sense. Do you agree? If so, make sure those who can change the course of history hear you. Join a group like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and become an advocate for what is right and what is reasonable.

Once you begin, take heart in the fight. Remember that commonsense regulatory actions have happened before and that there is reason to believe they can be enacted again. Do you recall the Federal Assault Weapons Ban? The ten-year proclamation expired in 2004, but it made the use and ownership of semi-automatic weapons prohibitive for civilians.

We of the Coleman Law Group pledge to join our voices with yours to enact real change – one that keeps what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School from ever occurring again. Let’s get started.