The impacts of domestic violence on a family run deep. The impacts of children in a household plagued by instances of domestic violence can have lasting consequences and family law judges understand this. That is why domestic violence reports and domestic violence convictions can significantly impact custody arrangements for children of parents who have a history of abusive behavior. In fact, the majority of states have laws in place that govern how domestic violence impacts child custody decisions. Florida is no exception to this.
The Impact of a Domestic Violence Conviction on Child Custody
Custody determinations in Florida start with the presumption that both parents should share custody unless it would be detrimental to the child and not in the child’s best interests. In deciding on custody rulings, the court will weigh a number of factors including:
- The relationship each parent has with the child
- The moral, mental, and physical fitness of each parent
- Any evidence of violence (including domestic violence, child abuse, and child neglect)
- Any other factors that may impact the well-being of the child
Florida law defines domestic violence as any assault, battery, or criminal offense perpetrated by a household or family member that results in injury or death. If a parent has been convicted of a domestic violence charge, whether it be a misdemeanor or more severe, the court begins the custody determination under the presumption that it would be detrimental to the child for that parent to have custody. The parent with the domestic violence conviction carries the burden of proving to the court that this presumption should be overcome and that he or she should share custody rights with the other parent. It should also be noted that, even without a domestic violence conviction, the court will consider any evidence of such. Parents have the opportunity at the start of child custody proceedings to present any evidence of domestic violence.
When a parent has been convicted of domestic violence, the court holds a hearing to determine whether that parent should be allowed any contact with the child. This is because of the above mentioned presumption that a parent convicted of domestic violence should not have any custody rights. For the convicted parent to be granted any custody or visitation rights, that parent must be able to prepare enough evidence to convince the court that custody would not place the child’s safety as well as physical and emotional well-being at risk.
Even in the event that the convicted parent convinces the court that it would be in the child’s best interest to have continued contact with him or her, the judge has discretion in granting certain restrictions on visitations in order to help protect the well-being of the child. For instance, the judge may order supervised visitation in which a trained supervisor would be required to oversee all visitation between the child and the convicted parent. Furthermore, the judge can order the expense of supervised visitation be carried by the convicted parent.
When a parent is a known and violent career criminal, carries a first or second-degree murder conviction, or has other convictions relating to incidences of physical or sexual violence against someone else, the court may rule that the parent’s parental rights should be terminated. Termination of parental rights brings an end to the legal parent-child relationship. This is reserved for extreme cases and is, in reality, very rare.
Florida Family Law Attorneys
Child custody determinations are complex as well as delicate. The dedicated family law team at Orlando Family Team is committed to always fighting and protecting the best interests of you and your loved ones. Contact us today.