The History Channel has a show that follows Cajuns around while they hunt alligators in the swamps of Louisana.  This show, “Swamp People”, is an American reality/documentary television series that follows the day-to-day activities of several Cajuns who hunt alligators for a living.  The series was first broadcast in August of 2010, and is fairly popular as the show began its third season in February of this year.

One actor on the show, unfortunately, is providing negative publicity for the series when his fun Disney World trip turned violent.

Noces Joseph LaFont, Jr., one of the stars of “Swamp People,” has been arrested in Florida on domestic violence charges according to Orange County Sheriff’s deputies.  LaFont, who is known as “Trapper John” on the show, was staying at a hotel near Disney World with his girlfriend,  Trene Marie Planche, when they began arguing.  According to police reports, the couple who had been drinking, were outside the hotel when LaFont answered his cell phone and Planche demanded to know who he was talking to and tried to snatch the phone from his hand. 

An eye witness to the altercation, Reginald Hazzard, stated that LaFont tried to burn Planche with his cigarette, missed, and then began shaking her by both arms.  LaFont then punched  Planche in the chest.  He denied punching his girlfriend, despite the redness in her chest area.  Planche refused medical treatment and also refused to press charges.

LaFont was charged with battery and assault and booked into the Orange County Jail, where he later posted bail and was released.

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Florida is one of a handful of states that allows permanent lifetime alimony that does not end at retirement, but only ceases upon death or remarriage of the recipient.  This law can have devastating consequences for the former spouse who has to pay out this permanent alimony.

Florida Alimony Reform (FAR) is America’s largest alimony reform group and represents more than 2,000 families across the state that, according to the group, are being crippled by Florida’s alimony laws.

During the 2012 legislative session, FAR proposed an overhaul of Florida’s alimony laws, which in FAR’s opinion, are outdated and antiquated.  Alan Frisher, Divorce Financial Analyst and Co-Director of Florida Alimony Reform, stated that the chances for reform had looked encouraging, but then took a turn for the worse, when the Senate sponsor for alimony reform did not adopt the House Bill and also did not present a Senate version of the bill that allowed for any significant change from current law.

Frisher stated that current Florida alimony law  is harmful to many families and taxpayers, with ultimate financial benefit not going to the alimony payer, but instead to Family Law attorneys who represent their clients in court.  He also added that numerous articles have been published that relate how permanent alimony has adversely affected families for generations.

The revisions to the alimony law that FAR is requesting reflects changing social and demographic patterns, as well as the the toll the economic slump has brought to this country. 

Two issues at the center of the alimony debate are the amount of discretion judges throughout the state have in each case, and the fact that Florida is one of only a few states in the entire country that grant permanent alimony.

Supporters of the current alimony law say that current laws are progressive and that, according to Florida Bar Family Section Chairman David Manz, “we’ve changed substantially in two years, and are continuing to do so.”

Panama City Family Attorney Gerard Virga said that “the government isn’t going to do anything that’s going to make them pay more money in social welfare programs, so they have an interest honestly, the state does, in maintaining a form of alimony.”

FAR is already working on another reform bill for the next legislative session and hoping for a better outcome in 2013.

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A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into prior to marriage by a couple who are planning to marry.  The usual content of a prenuptial agreement can vary widely, but commonly includes provisions for division of property and spousal support in the event of the breakup of the marriage.  The contract can also contain terms for the forfeiture of assets if the divorce has been granted on grounds of adultery.  There are times when the issue of guardianship is also included in a prenuptial contract.

In the past, judges in this country tended to disregard prenuptials agreements because they accepted the view that these contracts turned what was supposed to be the most intimate and sacred bond into a financial arrangement, but nowadays they are recognized, though they may not be enforced.  In the United States, prenuptial agreements are recognized in Florida and the other 49 states, as well as the District of Columbia, and require five elements to be valid.

  • the agreement must be in writing as oral prenuptials are generally unenforceable
  • full and/or fair disclosure at the time of execution
  • must be executed voluntarily
  • the agreement cannot be unconscionable
  • the agreement must be executed by both parties “in the manner required for a deed to be recorded”, which is known as an acknowledgment, before a notary public

In Florida as in other states, the prenuptial agreement, or as it is called in Florida, the Premarital Agreement, becomes effective upon marriage.  The agreement can be amended, revoked or abandoned, but only by a written agreement signed by both parties.

Although no couple goes into a marriage thinking they may divorce in later years, unfortunately there is a fifty-fifty chance that divorce is in their future, and there are times when a premarital agreement can be quite beneficial.

A prenuptial agreement protects one party who enters into a marriage with a larger amount of assets than that of his soon to be spouse.  It also protects the party who enters into marriage with a partner who has a high amount of debt in that after a divorce, the creditors will go after the owner of the debt and not his/her innocent partner.  If one partner in a marriage should pass away, a prenuptial agreement could keep previously acquired assets separate from his/her  current marital estate, ensuring that the children from a previous marriage receive part of the estate. 

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In the state of Florida, parents or concerned parties are required to take a parenting course (also known as a divorce class) to obtain a divorce when there are minor children involved.  This course can assist parents in learning about the effects divorce can have on their family, as well as the best way to handle the difficult transition.

Divorce can be an emotional and traumatic time for both parents and their children, especially when parents are antagonistic and engage in a lengthy legal battle.  Conflict in a divorce has been found to be detrimental for children in that they can  suffer both short-term and long-term economic, emotional and educational effects during the divorce process.  One solution to alleviate the damage and stress to children, is to educate the parents.

Experts have discovered that parents who are provided information on how the courts make decisions on issues affecting their children are more inclined to consider the bests interests of their children when determining custody arrangements.  The topics included in the Florida parenting class relate to court action between parents involving custody, care, visitation and support of a child or children. The course is a minimum of four hours long and is designed by the state to educate, train and assist parents to understand and be aware of the consequences of divorce on both parents and children.  Florida has made it possible for couples to take the course in person, online or through correspondence.

The course also contains information regarding both spousal and child abuse and neglect along with agencies that provide assistance with these issues.  No mental health therapy or legal advice will be given in the course and those providers of the course are not allowed to solicit participants to become clients or patients.

The state expects divorcing couples to complete the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course in a timely manner and prior to the entry by the court of a final judgment, unless the court excuses the couple from attending or completing the course.  

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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department for Children and Families (DCF), both describe child abuse or maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child. According to Childhelp, every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving 6 million children.  For an industrialized nation, the United States has one of the worst records in child abuse deaths,  losing  five children every day. 

Experts and researchers in child development have known there is a relation between early abuse and mental illness in children for quite some time.  In a recent study in using brain scans to show the effects of child abuse, researchers have discovered specific changes in regions and the hippocampus in the brains of young adults who were maltreated or neglected in childhood.  These changes lead the researchers to believe that child abuse victims are more vulnerable to depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The study was conducted by a Harvard research team led by Dr. Martin Teicher and studied approximately 200 people aged 18 to 21, who were mainly middle-class and well-educated.  The study excluded those who were severely addicted to drugs and those on psychiatric medications, because both types of drugs could cause changes in the brain that could obscure the findings. 

When the researchers studied the brain scans of these young adults, they could see the aftermath of that trauma they had suffered as a child.  Formerly maltreated youth showed reductions in the volume of the hippocampus, and also reductions in two other regions of the brain when compared with people who had not been abused.  It appears that early stress makes the brain less resilient to the effects of later stress.  The researchers wrote that  we “suspect that our findings are a consequence of maltreatment and a risk factor for developing PTSD following exposure to further traumas.”

Even though the findings are just preliminary in nature, with nearly 4 million children evaluated for child abuse or neglect in our nation every year, child maltreatment isn’t something we can ignore.  This is a problem that costs our country over $120 billion in lost productivity and health, child welfare and criminal justice costs every year.  From this study, researchers have pinpointed that the effects of abuse do linger and puts these children at risk in later years for not only mental illness, but for developing such chronic diseases as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. 

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For one man, having a child with a famous actress became very profitable when a family law judge ordered his ex-girlfriend to pay him $20,000 a month in child support.

Halle Berry was ordered to pay Gabriel Aubry the support in order for him to provide a proper home for the ex-couple’s 4-year-old daughter, Nahla.  Aubry feels  the couple’s daughter needs to keep living in the surroundings to which she has been accustomed.  Aubry also demanded a long list of other items which included money for Nahla’s clothing, and funds to take the child to Canada to visit his family. 

Berry and Aubry have been battling over custody of Nahla for months and will be back in court soon for a judge to decide whether or not Halle can take Nahla and move to Paris.  Berry and Aubry split in February 2010, and now Berry is engaged to French actor Oliver Martinez.  Berry filed a request in family court for permission to move to France with her daughter because she fears for her life.   One man, Richard Franco, convicted of stalking Berry, has been released from jail after serving only 193 days of his 386 day sentence, while another man, Robert Hoskins, who allegedly threatened to slit Berry’s throat, has escaped from a mental institution.  Berry has stated that she not only wants to get as far away as possible from both men, but from the paparazzi as well..

Aubry is fighting Berry’s proposed move to France and, instead, wants her to move to Malibu permanently saying that “she already has a house there and does not seem to have any problems with the paparazzi photographing her in a bikini with Nahla.”  Aubry wants Nahla to have as normal a childhood as possible and even wants his daughter to attend public school in Malibu.  Lawyer’s for Aubry have said that they “think it’s very unlikely the judge will grant Halle’s request because he is Nahla’s father and lives in Los Angeles and this is where his daughter was born and raised.” 

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Florida has a law entitled ‘Stand Your Ground Law’, which states that a person may use force in self-defense when there is a reasonable belief of a threat, without an obligation to retreat first.  One Florida woman  believed she would be safe under this law, but now feels the state of Florida is not applying the law to her and as a result may face up to twenty years in prison.

Marissa Alexander is a 31-year-old mother of three who sits in the Duval County Jail in Jacksonville, Florida.  On August 1, 2010, Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, became enraged, accusing her of being unfaithful after reading text messages on her phone to her ex-husband.  Gray then, according to Alexander, began to strangle her, but she managed to break away from his grip and ran into the garage intending to drive away in her truck.  However, Alexander had failed to grab her keys when she fled from her house and  could not get the garage door open, and thus her only option was to reenter her home.  Unfortunately, Alexander made a decision that may haunt her for the rest of her life.  She felt she needed protection from her husband and grabbed her weapon.  Alexander said that she “couldn’t fight her husband” as he weighed 100 pounds more than she did, and “I grabbed my weapon at that point.”

When Alexander reentered her home with pistol at her side, Gray threatened to kill her, and feeling threatened, she raised the gun and fired one shot.  She stated that “she believed he was going to kill her” and that if she “hadn’t fired my weapon at that point, I would not be here.”  One important point in the incident is that Alexander did not point the gun at her husband; she pointed the gun in the air before discharging the weapon.  No one was hurt in the incident, but she is sitting in jail facing a 20-year sentence on three charges of aggravated assault with a weapon.

Gray admitted  that he has been guilty of domestic abuse, and has physically abused Alexander in the past.  In a previous incident, Alexander said he beat her so badly she ended up in the hospital and he ended up in jail.  Is this an incident of aggravated assault or a case of standing your ground to prevent becoming a victim of domestic abuse?  Only a day in court and a jury’s verdict will answer this question for Marissa Alexander.

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In 2009, a New Jersey bakery was in the news for an incident that raised public ire and distaste. 

When a store bakery employee refused to decorate a birthday cake with a child’s name, Adolf Hitler Campbell back in 2009,  the incident began a legal battle between child welfare officials and the parents of the the 6-year-old boy and his siblings, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation, Honzlynn Hinler Jeanne, and Hons Campbell.  In 2010, a judge ruled that because of reports of domestic violence, the children were in danger at home, and the children were not returned to the custody of their parents, Heath and Deborah Campbell. 

Recently, the couple lost another battle to regain custody of their four children, three of which are named after Nazi figures.  According to the ruling at a superior court in New Jersey, the children will remain in the care of the state.  According to officials, they have evidence that “the children were being strapped into their booster seats for unusually long periods of time amid ongoing domestic violence.”

The children’s parents denied the accusations saying that the court ruling was based on the names they chose for their children and not on any factual proof of domestic violence or mistreatment of their children.  Heath Campbell stated that “these kids weren’t abused, and they were not taken because of abuse.”  He added that if he” has to give up Nazism to get his kids back, then so be it.”  Campbell also said that his children “are more my heart and soul  and everything than anything.”

The couple’s attorney stated the couple will appeal the latest court ruling.

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A celebrity couple who have been separated for over a year, are finally calling it quits.  David Arquette served divorce papers to Courteney Cox earlier this month after being separated from her for a year-and-a-half.  Courteney actually filed legal documents responding to Arquette’s divorce papers the same day he filed the papers, and it seems, followed his suit in not using a lawyer as both parties’ documents state they are represented by “self.”

It appears that the couple did not have a prenuptial agreement, which will be a negative issue for Cox as she is reportedly worth $75 million whereas Arquette’s worth is estimated at only $18 million.  Cox’s income increased dramatically in the last five years of “Friends”, a sitcom she starred in that was hugely popular with the American public.  Courteney was cast as Monica Geller in 1994, her most famous role, and the sitcom ran for ten seasons.  Cox became the highest paid TV actress of all time with her $1 million per episode paycheck for the final two seasons of “Friends.”

Cox met Arquette while starring in the high-profile Hollywood film Scream in 1996, and the couple were married in 1999.  They have one daughter together, Coco, who was born in June 2004.

Courteney doesn’t appear to be upset by the news of her divorce as, instead of sitting home moping, she went out to dinner with friends in Malibu.  Cox also didn’t appear to be surprised by Arquette’s decision to file divorce papers, which he had actually filled out back in March.  When TMZ asked about the filing of the papers, Courteney smiled and sarcastically replied, “He did?  Oh, my god, I didn’t know.”  Courteney has actually been very vocal  in her opinion that a reconciliation between the two would not work out.

Courteney is asking for joint physical and legal custody of her eight-year-old daughter Coco, just as her husband David did.  She also wants the “Arquette” dropped off her last name so she will once again become Courteney Cox.

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Four days before his thirteenth wedding anniversary, actor David Arquette filed papers to divorce actress Courteney Cox.  The couple have been on a trial separation for a year-and-a-half. 

Arquette comes from a well-known family of actors, stretching back to his great-grandfather who worked in vaudeville.  His grandfather was Cliff Arquette, a comic actor, and both his older sisters, Rosanna and Patricia, and older brothers, Alexis and Richmond have had careers in the entertainment field.  Arquette appeared in a string of failed TV sitcoms, and then had a break through in the 1996’s horror spoof Scream.  It was on the set of this movie that he met his future wife, Courtney Cox.

Cox began her career in 1984 in a Bruce Springsteen video and then appeared in a string of commercials.  She had several minor TV roles in the 1980’s, and then her big break came in 1994, when she landed the role as Monica on the sitcom Friends, a role that lasted ten seasons.  She and Arquette were married in June 1999, between seasons five and six. 

In his divorce papers, Arquette cited “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the divorce, and Arquette is wanting joint legal and physical custody of the couple’s eight-year-old daughter Coco.  There was no mention of child or spousal support or how property should be divided.  The couple has been amicable in their trial separation, so it seems the divorce should be amicable as well.

In a December 2008 interview, Cox had opened up about the influence her parent’s divorce had on her marriage to David Arquette and had stated that “she didn’t know what the future’s going to hold, but divorce isn’t really an option.”  Unfortunately for Courteney, her husband did not feel the same way.

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