How Domestic Violence and Battery Charges Can Affect Child Custody

Your children mean the world to you. You would do anything to protect them. 

Getting out of a bad relationship is a brave step towards a better future for you and your children, but the next steps can be uncertain as you attempt to figure out how to navigate a child custody dispute. 

The truth is—parents who have been convicted of crimes may be denied parental rights in a court of law. But how exactly that happens and how judges decide who gets custody can be up in the air. 

Here’s what you need to know about how domestic violence and battery charges affect child custody.

How Florida Family Law Courts Decide Child Custody Cases

There are two related concepts in Florida law which many people think of as of custody:

  • Parental responsibility—the right to make significant decisions regarding the child’s life, including medical and educational choices
  • Timesharing—the right to determine the child’s living arrangements with each parent or the schedule

The court will consider both concepts when deciding on a case involving domestic violence or battery charges

Under Florida Family Law 61.13, here are a few factors that Florida family law judges consider when making a parenting plan decision: 

  • The mental and physical health of the parents
  • The preference of the child
  • The child’s home, school, and community
  • Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, and child neglect
  • The willingness of each parent to act in the best interest of the child rather than their interests
  • The willingness of each parent to provide an environment free of substance abuse
  • Any other relevant factors related to the determination of a parenting plan 

Timesharing determinations are made in the best interest of the child. Family law judges understand the impact of household violence on a child’s well-being and will consider this when determining a parenting plan.

What is Considered Domestic Violence in Florida?

Per Florida Statute 741.28, domestic violence is defined as “any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.”

Even if a couple divorces or no longer live together, violence between them will be considered domestic violence in a court of law. 

Consequences against the accused can include: 

  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Participation in a batterer’s intervention program
  • Loss of the right to a firearm
  • Loss of parental rights
  • Restraining order 

How Domestic Violence Impacts Child Custody Decisions 

Your child’s safety and well-being are the court’s priorities in child custody cases. Domestic violence can harm a child’s mental and physical well-being. Here’s how a domestic violence charge can affect parental rights. 

Protective Injunctions

Victims of domestic violence can request a Protective Injunction against the alleged abuser. The alleged abuser will not be allowed to contact the victim, which may also apply to the children. The petitioner may also request temporary child support during this period.

Supervised Time-Sharing

The judge may order supervised time-sharing or visitations with the alleged abusive parent. Sometimes, they may require the parent to pay for these visits. 

Termination of Parental Rights

In extreme cases, the judge may terminate the parental rights of the alleged abusive parent. 

Most often, this happens when the abusive parent: 

  • Is a violent career criminal
  • Is a sexual predator
  • Has conspired to murder the other parent or child
  • Has been convicted of first or second-degree murder

In all circumstances, the family law judge will have the final say on what happens in your case. If you’re a victim of domestic abuse or concerned about losing your parental rights due to false allegations of domestic violence, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to zealously fight against the accusations and understand their rights.

The legal system in Florida is very clear about what constitutes abuse. Criminal charges could impact a parent’s legal rights to their child. 

If you are navigating a child custody dispute and a domestic violence case, it is essential to understand the impact of such charges on parental rights. If you need help navigating the particular aspects of your situation, an experienced Florida family law attorney may be able to provide guidance and support.