Domestic violence has become a top concern in in our legal system, and there are a number of ways domestic abuse, violence, and harassment can impact the lives of all family members. Whether abuse takes the form of physical violence or emotional abuse, there are many repercussions when it comes to family law, including a direct impact on proceedings involving children.
In the state of Florida, family courts place an emphasis on protecting the wellbeing and best interests of children. Domestic violence is never in a child’s best interests. As such, there are various procedures and protocol for handling allegations, as well as various factors courts take into account when addressing custody and visitation matters (timesharing) involving domestic violence.
At Schuttler, Greenberg & Mullins, LLC, our Boca Raton divorce lawyers are passionate about protecting the rights, interests, and futures of our clients. Whether you are a victim of abuse or violence within the family or have been unfairly accused of domestic violence, our legal team is available to review the individual facts of your case and protect your rights as you navigate various family law proceedings.
To help you understand the impact of domestic violence on family law issues involving children, we have provided a few key points to consider:
- Domestic violence in all forms – Domestic violence will be treated seriously regardless of the form it takes. This includes physical, emotional, and verbal abuse between any members of the family unit. In some cases, domestic violence might lead to criminal arrests and allegations. However, victims will still need to address any family law issues in family court, such as when they seek a modification of an existing court order.
- Restraining orders – Victims of domestic abuse have resources available to make their voices heard. This includes filing for restraining orders, also known as an injunction for protection against domestic violence. Victims may file for this injunction if they are a victim of abuse or have been threatened with abuse and have / have had a domestic relationship with the alleged offender (i.e. have lived together at one point or having a child together). Typically, these orders for protection are sought by married or divorced spouses, and non-married parents. There may also be options for obtaining other orders of protection, such as injunctions against dating or sexual violence, or injunctions for protection against stalking or cyberstalking. These protection orders can prohibit an alleged abuser from continuing the abuse, contacting you, and going to your home or place of work. They can also provide you with temporary custody of children, order an alleged abuser to leave the family home (if they live with you), and pay temporary child support. Individuals who have been served a restraining order do have the right to challenge them.
- Child Custody – Florida family courts have the duty of ensuring the safety of children, which means that any claims of domestic violence will factor heavily into their decisions regarding custody. By reviewing accusations, evidence, and reports from law enforcement, medical professionals, or child services, judges will determine if domestic violence has taken place, and whether that makes an offender a danger to children. Often it will be presumed that the abusive parent should not have custody of the child, which means alleged offenders will need to prove that they have taken steps that make them fit to engage in a safe relationship with their children, or prove that the allegations against them are false.
- Visitation – Florida courts will view visitation (timesharing) in much the same way as custody when domestic violence is involved. Judges have an obligation to grant reasonable visitation, but they may choose not to grant visitation when doing so is not in the best interests of the child. Because it is not in the best interests for children to be exposed to abuse, courts may protect children by ordering that any parenting time be supervised by a third party, or may suspend or deny timesharing entirely.
Want more information about how domestic violence may play a role in your divorce or family law matter? Speak with a member of our legal team when you contact us for an initial consultation.