Raising a Child: It Takes a Village

As the old saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” For many couples, expecting a child can be a nerve racking experience, but it ultimately ends joyous. Prior to and after having a child, many new parents look to their parents, family, friends, other new parents and books to figure out how to raise their new bundle of joy. They even have a phone app to assist you in raising your child. (see: http://www.newparent.com/you/best-iphone-apps-for-new-parents/). No matter what you read or the advice you get nothing can prepare you for being a parent until your bundle of joy arrives; however, preplanning for the new addition to your family can help you limit needless stress and conflict. Before Your New Bundle Comes

Before your new bundle of joy arrives, it may be beneficial to consider the following potential issues and reach agreements so that transitions over the first few years of your child’s life are smooth:

1.     Who will come over and assist you in the first few months with your newborn? For how long?

2.     What religious path will you show your child?

3.     How will you discipline your child? Are both of you on the same page?

4.     Will someone stay home and raise your child? Should you look at daycare or a relative to assist? (see the latest cost of raising a child: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/25/the-cost-of-raising-a-child/)

5.     What type of school will your child attend? Religious, public, home school?

6.     Should you start a college fund right away?

Both Parents

Remember as parents that your child is an individual and he/she will have his/her own personality.  Your child will have likes and dislikes and some of those characteristics will be like you and your spouse and others may not. One of the things new parents should realize is that raising a child is a learning experience, and you will not get everything the first time around but being there and trying your best will pay dividends in the end.

Not only is it important to have the lines of communication open between you and your spouse, but it is just as important to have a game plan on issues like the above. Your child will need both of you in his/her life and the law in the state of Florida expects and promotes such equal involvement.

“Cruelty to Animals and Domestic Abuse”

Family Law issues and Animal Abuse go hand in hand. Just recently on May 19, 2011, Gary Eugene Denning from Trenton, Florida, located in Levy County, was arrested for domestic battery and cruelty to an animal.  ( Levy County Sheriff Blog: http://levycountysheriffsblog.blogspot.com/ )  The domestic abuse charges stemmed from Mr. Denning getting upset with his brother-in-law over a small dent in Mr. Denning’s vehicle.  After hitting his brother-in-law in the chest and attempting to kick him, Mr. Denning decided to get back at his brother-in-law my directing his anger toward the family pet, a Golden Retriever.

When police arrived at the scene, the blood trail through the house was apparent. Mr. Denning allegedly struck the Golden Retriever with a machete several times severing the dog's spinal cord.  Denning's minor daughter was in the residence when the attack occurred. Unfortunately, the Golden Retriever had to be put down due to the wounds.

This is not the first case, and unfortunately it will not be the last case, where a domestic abuse instance merges with cruelty to the family pet. Not only has this been reported in the media but it has been documented through academia as well. In his article, Battered Women’s Reports of Their Partners’ and Their Children’s cruelty to Animals, Frank R. Ascion reports that a significant number of survivors of domestic violence state that their abusers also harmed, or threatened to harm, the family pet. (see online article at http://www.vawnet.org/Assoc_Files_VAWnet/BWpetCruelty.pdf )

There are several reasons why animals end up getting hurt during family disturbances. One of those reasons is the abuser knows that the victims generally have strong feelings/connections to the pet. As a result, attacking the family pet indirectly hurts the victim and the point is made that the victim could, or more than likely will, be next. Another reason why the family pet is attacked is because the abusers know that the family pet will put up little or no resistance and cannot “contact” the authorities.  The family pet is a voiceless victim and under Florida Statute 828.12, Cruelty to Animals is a third degree felony, which under the Penalties Section, Florida Statute 775.082, carries a maximum sentence of five years and a fine not exceeding $10,000, or both. (http://leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?Mode=View%20Statutes&Submenu=1&Tab=statutes&CFID=210974864&CFTOKEN=3052213)

Although Florida recognizes animal cruelty as a crime, it is separate and distinct from Family Law; however, I feel a argument could be made based on the love families have for their pets and the correlation of animal cruelty to domestic abuse, that cruelty to animals is not as distinct issue as it is perceived to be in the law.  Even though it seems that penalties are harsh for Cruelty to Animals rarely do defendants face real consequences for their actions towards the family pets. I guess only time will tell what the consequences are for Mr. Denning’s alleged actions.