It is truly surprising how many people we speak with in our child sex abuse practice regarding potential cases against parents or stepparents. While these are obviously extremely traumatic circumstances, and usually feature reprehensible conduct by the parent or stepparent, there are many obstacles to successfully pursuing a civil claim for money damages.
Civil vs. Criminal Child Sex Abuse Cases
One of the first things that someone victimized by a parent or step-parent needs to realize is that the criminal and civil justice systems are entirely different. The criminal justice system is essentially only interested in punishing the wrongdoer — usually with jail or prison. Meanwhile, the civil justice system - the area that we practice in — is typically concerned with collecting money damages for injured victims.
Civil cases typically begin by analyzing the issue of fault. In child sex abuse cases, oftentimes the issue of fault is resolved by the criminal justice system. Most of the calls that we receive involving parent or stepparent child sexual abuse involve perpetrators who have already been prosecuted by the state, either plead guilty or been found guilty, and are often already sitting in jail. While fault is obviously a critical element, it is usually not the biggest obstacle to recovery for most of our clients.
The most prevalent and practical problem we face in parent or stepparent child sex abuse bases is collectibility.
Collectibility and High-Value Liquidable Assets
Although child sex abuse cases are always heartbreaking and easily bring on a sense of outrage, the fact that we pursue most of these cases on a contingency fee basis means that we frequently cannot take on cases without there being a reasonable probability that we will collect money for our client at the end of the case. (That being said, we do sometimes handle these cases on an hourly-billed basis, but this is very rare because most of our clients simply cannot afford to pay an attorney by the hour.) In cases involving parents or stepparents who have committed child sexual abuse, we typically have to be satisfied that the perpetrating adult has assets that are sufficient and available enough to compensate our client.
In other words we need to be confident that the perpetrator has money sitting in accounts; vehicles, boats or other adult toys; or non-homestead real estate that can be liquidated to either pay a negotiated settlement or a Final Judgement if the case goes all the way to a verdict. Under Florida law, homesteaded real property, primary vehicles, and many investment accounts are considered protected, and not subject to levy at the end of a civil case.
Obtaining Compensation Can Be Challenging
Unfortunately, the usual significant difficulty in collecting money when there is no insurance involved, means that we turn down many more “good“ child sex abuse cases, than we undertake. This is not because the victims don’t deserve justice. The decision is typically a practical one.
Speak To A Florida Child Sex Abuse Lawyer Today
If you have a question regarding a Florida child sex abuse case involving a parent or stepparent, or would like more information about any aspect of a child sex abuse case, please contact Winter Park attorneys Kim Cullen or Robert Hemphill at 407–254-4901. Consultation are always of free of charge.