Child Abuse and Florida Family Violence
While the effects of domestic violence on spouses are serious and long-term, it is even worse for minor children who are exposed to this kind of instability. Even if the children are not the victims of physical abuse themselves, they still experience profound psychological harm merely witnessing their parent or parents behaving in this way. If you have been charged with domestic violence, it is crucial that you understand your parenting time may be restricted or even suspended, depending on the specifics of your situation. If you are convicted, you may lose custody entirely.
Convictions Lose Custody
Florida’s specific domestic violence law defines three parts to the offense. Domestic violence is (1) any assault, battery, sexual assault, stalking, kidnapping, or any other criminal offense (2) perpetrated by one household member against another (3) that causes injury or death. A ‘household member’ can be a spouse, but the law also encompasses children, ex-spouses, people who are related by blood or marriage, people ‘residing together as a family’ or who have done so in the past, and co-parents.
When it comes to parenting time and custody issues, Florida starts from the belief that minor children do better in life when they have relationships with both parents. That principle is only challenged when there is evidence of one or both parents engaging in behavior that is not in the best interests of their child or children. For example, Florida law creates a rebuttable legal presumption that if a parent has been convicted of any felony (or a misdemeanor of the first degree) involving domestic violence, it is not in the child’s best interest for that parent to have shared custody or parenting time. It is then up to the parent to try and convince the court that they still deserve a relationship with their child in spite of the conviction.
Parenting Time Can Be Restored Or Taken Away
If your divorce court is receptive to your arguments that time-sharing might still be appropriate, it will almost certainly not just grant you an equal share of parenting time with no restrictions. Most of the time, the court will allow forms of supervised visitation, usually handled by a third-party agency or program so as to ensure impartiality. If supervised visits yield no problems over time, the court may revisit its ruling, but this is not guaranteed.
If, for any reason, you wind up charged with other offenses or are involved in any other type of crime, the family court may get serious, especially if any of these other offenses involve child abuse or other instances of domestic violence. If the court sees fit, it can move to unilaterally terminate your parental rights. While this is extremely rare, it is sometimes done when the court finds enough evidence to establish that the parental relationship acutely threatens the “life, safety, [and] well-being,” or the physical, emotional, or mental health of the child. Do not let this happen to your family.
Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Abuse Attorney
Domestic abuse affects everyone around it, not only the people directly involved. If it affects your children, it can change their life, and not for the better. The West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. can help you determine how best to deal with the charges against you, so that you can have the best chance of staying in your children’s lives. Call us today to speak to an attorney.