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Domestic Violence and Child Custody

Judges in family court understand the effect that domestic violence can have on a child, and as a result they are often hesitant to give custody to a parent or guardian that has a history of abusive behavior. Research has shown that the biggest risk factor for family violence to pass from one generation to another is to witness that type of violence between parents or between a parent and the child. Therefore, Florida family law courts pay particular attention to claims of domestic violence when it comes to determining child custody.

Florida Domestic Violence Law

Chapter 741 of the Florida statutes covers domestic violence law in the state. Section 741.28 defines domestic violence as “any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.”

For the purposes of the law, a family or household member is defined in the same section as a:

  • Spouse;
  • Former spouse;
  • Person related by blood or marriage;
  • Persons residing together as if a family; or
  • Parents of a child, regardless of whether they have been married.

Domestic Violence and Child Custody

While the Florida family court begins with the assumption that both parents should share custody of a child, if a parent has been convicted of domestic violence the courts can presume that it would be detrimental to the child to give that parent custody. The burden is then on the parent to show that they should still have custody rights. For a convicted parent, the courts will hold a hearing to determine whether the child’s safety, well-being, and physical and emotional health will remain intact before custody is agreed upon.

When a child custody proceeding begins, each parent is bound to disclose any and all domestic violence instances, injunctions, or termination of parental rights with their other children, family, or household members. In addition, Florida courts also automatically presume that a parent who has been convicted of sexual abuse or battery, lewd behavior, kidnapping, incest, indecent exposure, or physical abuse of children should not have custody or visitation with their child.

Other Options for Custody

If the judge does find that prior domestic violence is a factor in the custody proceedings there are other options than just a typical custody agreement. If the judge thinks that a parent should still be able to see their child, the court can order supervised visitation rights. This protects the child and the other parent from being harmed while still allowing contact. A pre-approved supervisor handles all visits between the parent and child.

However, if the judge finds that the domestic violence is so reprehensible that there should be more than just no custody, the court can also order for the termination of parental rights. This only happens when the judge finds that it is in the child’s best interests to end the parent-child relationship.

Call a Florida Family Law Attorney

If you or a loved one has questions about how domestic violence could affect a child custody agreement or has other questions pertaining to child custody law in the Orlando area, let the office of Steve W. Marsee, P.A. help. Call or contact the office today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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