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Children In Domestic Violence Cases
No good parent ever wants their children to be exposed to familial fighting. However, if domestic violence happens in the home and your children are in a place to experience it, there can be severe consequences for both them and you, especially if you are held to have been the aggressor in any domestic violence incident. If you are convicted of domestic violence – or in some cases, if you are merely charged – you not only may receive a slightly harsher sentence, but in addition, you may lose parenting time with your children.
Violence Against Parents and Caregivers
Florida law defines domestic violence as any “criminal offense that results in injury or death” to a family or household member, committed by another family or household member. A minor child does not count as a ‘family or household member’ for the purposes of this definition, but a spouse does, as well as a former spouse, a co-parent, and certain other adults, any of whom may serve as a caregiver for (and have a relationship) with that child. It is sadly quite common for children to witness acts of domestic violence perpetrated against their parents and caregivers.
It is not in dispute that children suffer serious ill effects from being exposed to domestic violence. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, citing a number of studies, show that children who witness abuse are around 10 times more likely to either become abusers or to become victims upon reaching adulthood. They are also at higher risk for certain health problems, such as mental health issues like anxiety, but also physical conditions like heart disease or diabetes.
You may never have intended for your children to experience any kind of domestic violence, but if they do – even if they merely happened to be in the room and you lost your temper – it can have a negative impact on them, but also on you. In Florida, the offense of “domestic violence” is not often charged, or if it is, it is charged in addition to the underlying offense (for example, if you allegedly committed battery, you would be charged with battery, and the domestic nature of the crime would be used as an aggravating factor in sentencing). Prosecutors have broad discretion and may try to push a harsher sentence if you are convicted, if it can be shown that a minor child was involved.
In addition, a more concrete issue for many parents is that a charge or conviction for domestic violence can be used against them in later child custody proceedings. When a court is considering how to divide parenting time, any evidence of domestic violence can be used to establish a presumption that your having a relationship with your child would be a detriment to them. This presumption can be overturned, but it is not easy to do so, given how serious a crime domestic violence is seen as being.
Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney
Domestic violence is a crime that cannot, at least in theory, be committed against a child, but children can unfortunately still suffer the consequences if they witness such abuse. If you have been charged with domestic violence and are concerned about your children or your parenting time, contacting a West Palm Beach criminal attorney from the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. can be a big help in ensuring you get your day in court. Call our offices today to speak to an attorney.