Florida Domestic Violence And Divorce
Domestic violence is a serious crime in Florida. In addition to the obvious criminal penalties, though, there are certain other consequences that can befall someone who has been charged with or convicted of a domestic violence crime. One of the most serious and long-lasting is the potential for a divorce, which can completely upend your life and your relationships with your children. It can also be confusing understanding how a civil divorce differs from a criminal proceeding. An experienced attorney can help.
Assets Will Be Divided Equitably
It is not uncommon for a divorce to spring out of an episode of domestic violence, either because an eventual victim tries to leave an abuser, or as a reaction after one spouse leaves the marriage first. The divorce, if it happens, will be a separate proceeding from any criminal charges brought against you; domestic violence charges are criminal, potentially punishable by jail time and fines, while a divorce is brought in civil court and settles issues like asset distribution and any potential child custody arrangement. Very often, divorce proceedings will follow the disposition of any criminal matters, rather than being dealt with first.
Florida, like most other U.S. states, is a ‘no-fault’ state for purposes of divorce. This means that while an alleged domestic violence victim may seek to file for divorce from their abuser, they cannot use the alleged abuse as evidence of wrongdoing, since none is strictly necessary. There is sometimes an expectation that an abusive spouse will be somehow ‘punished’ in divorce court in revenge for their behavior, but a ‘no-fault’ divorce literally means no fault will be assessed. Assets are divided between the spouses in the way that the court finds most equitable, with very rare exceptions.
Custody Issues Are Common
While most aspects of divorce proceedings essentially ignore fault, there is one area where a past history of abuse allegations or convictions will be an enormous problem, and that is the area of parenting time and responsibility. Because the best interests of the child are seen as above any right of the parent to visitation, any history of abuse will be factored in against you by a court making a custody determination. If you have this kind of history, a ‘rebuttable’ presumption will be created that it would not be in your children’s best interests to have a relationship with you.
It is possible to overcome this presumption – mere allegations or hearsay are generally not sufficient to create a ‘history’ of abuse – but a conviction for any kind of domestic violence will go a long way toward making that presumption insurmountable, because it constitutes hard evidence that a pattern of abuse or neglect exists (or existed). Obviously, the best solution to this kind of problem is to avoid charges of this nature, but if you are in this situation, an experienced attorney can help you through.
Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney
If you have been charged with domestic violence and you are facing divorce proceedings, you need knowledgeable legal help with both issues. The West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. can help ensure that you have the best chance to see your criminal charges dropped. Contact our offices today to speak to an attorney.