Legal Representation for Churches in Tampa Bay and Across Florida
At Pinellas Legal Center, we understand how churches operate both corporately and under the law. Our church law practice focuses on churches, ministries and charities of all denominations throughout the Tampa Bay area and across the state of Florida from Key West to Jacksonville. John P. Joseph is an experienced church attorney as well as an ordained minister and certified church administrator. He is a Certified Church Administrator and Fellow in Church Business Administration with The National Association of Church Business Administration (1998). He also holds a Cambridge Certificate in Risk Management for Churches and Schools from Cambridge University, England. John was highly honored to be the inaugural recipient of the Golden Hammer Award, presented by Mr. Richard Hammer, J.D. CPA, “Honoring Those Who Have Exhibited A Mastery of Church Law and Administration.”
Our church law practice encompasses all of the matters described below:
Many churches begin ministering without incorporating themselves with the State of Florida. As such, they operate as an unincorporated association, and their pastors and members may be personally liable for negligence and breach of contracts. We incorporate churches to assist them in removing this liability.
Church Formation and Incorporation
If you are considering starting a church or you currently operate as an unincorporated association, we will discuss your options so you can make an informed decision on the type of entity you wish to be. Should you decide to be incorporated, we will draft the Articles according to your belief structure and polity while complying with the laws of the State of Florida. We will include language so you may apply with the IRS for a Letter of Determination for tax exemption.
Constitution, Bylaws and Governing Documents
We can review your existing governing documents, make requested amendments or draft a new Constitution, Bylaws and other governing documents for you.
Over the years we have assisted many pastors and boards when dealing with difficult employment matters, whether it is interviewing, hiring, evaluating, or terminating. Additionally, our office is ready to assist in drafting Severance Agreements for key staff members such as Pastors or support staff members.
Merger and Consolidation
There comes a time in the life of a church when they may feel led to merge with another church. This is often a great blessing for the local body. However, there are many moving parts to such a transaction, including process, public dissemination and support for the event, and title and insurance to properties, not to mention following the Florida Statutes on merging nonprofit entities. We can represent either the merging or surviving entity in this transaction.
Satellite Church Formation
We can assist you in creating this venue from contract negotiation thru liabilities of the offsite group.
Board Meeting Records Requests
Occasionally we represent a church which has received records requests from members and non-members alike. Such requests for board meeting minutes or staff meetings are fraught with legal pitfalls and if not followed under current Florida Law, it may result in a lawsuit. Consequences of a lawsuit could include being responsible for the requesting parties’ legal fees and costs. We respond to these requests on behalf of the church.
Acts of Negligence
At times churches find their employees or volunteers act negligently. When that happens, whether it is a van accident, nursery occurrence, or a slip and fall on the premises, the church has to respond appropriately and legally. We can counsel you on methods to protect the church’s interests and comply with protocols required under your insurance carrier.
Over the years we have represented several churches that had an employee embezzle funds. We can counsel you on recovering the amount lost or prosecuting the offense. Our office has drafted confidential Restitution Agreements in such events.
Conversion of Designated Offerings
Florida law has a process whereby you can convert such monies to the general fund. We can counsel you on the process and assist in its implementation.
Review and Negotiate Cell Tower Agreements
Such Agreements can be tempting, but are fraught with pitfalls. We will assist you in considering them, negotiating and closing.
Church Property Purchases
Our office is prepared to assist in negotiating property purchases and representing your church through closing.
We have represented many churches with first time financing, property purchases, Lines of Credit, Bond Issuances (Firm Underwriting and Best Efforts) and the like.
Nothing is more dramatic or tragic then an allegation by a victim of sexual molestation at your church. Such an event can devastate the victim, his/her family and the church. We have experience in dealing with these very sensitive matters and can guide you through the media and legal pitfalls of this event.
We can review your church policy and declaration sheet, advise you on their sufficiency, and present certain recommendations for your consideration.
Attendance at Board Meetings, Annual Meetings or Special Business Meetings
We will be happy to be invited to attend certain critical meetings for various reasons.
Attendance at Mediations
Occasionally churches find themselves involved in a matter requesting their attendance at a mediation to resolve the dispute. We can represent your interests at the mediation and work towards a resolution which may be in your church’s best interests.
We can counsel you regarding liability issues and recommend certain measures to reduce liability exposure. If sued, we can assist you with your insurance company-appointed counsel.
Review Governing Documents
We can conduct a confidential review of contracts, leases, current Articles of Incorporation, Constitution, By-Laws and Policy Manuals. We can make recommendations and revise if requested.
Dissolution of Corporate Entity
We will assist you in unwinding your church by drafting the minutes and filing the appropriate documents with the State of Florida Division of Corporations to effectuate the dissolution.
Advice and Representation from an Experienced Church Law Attorney in Tampa Bay
For excellent advice and counsel in church law matters in Tampa Bay and throughout the state of Florida, contact Pinellas Legal Center in St. Petersburg.