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Domestic Violence and Child Custody: Is the Abuser Entitled to Custody?

Child custody cases are often contentious affairs, with neither parent wanting to relinquish precious time with their child. But if there is a history of domestic violence between you and your child’s other parent, the desire to be awarded sole custody of your child has more to do with just time – it has to do with your child’s safety. Without you there to protect your child, you may fear that he will be injured, or worse, at the hands of your ex-partner. Thankfully, Florida law recognizes the impact domestic violence can have on a child and has procedures in place to provide some protection in child custody cases.

Domestic Violence and Best Interest of the Child in Florida Child Custody Dispute

When making a decision regarding child custody, the Florida court must determine what custody arrangement is in best interest of the child. There is a presumption for shared parental responsibility – whether an even 50-50 split or an uneven split – unless the court finds that shared custody would be “detrimental to the child.”

One such detrimental factor may be present if one parent has been convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor or higher incident of domestic violence. A conviction for domestic violence may include commission of any of the following crimes against a family or household member:

  • Assault, simple or aggravated;
  • Battery, simple or aggravated;
  • Sexual assault;
  • Sexual battery;
  • Stalking, simple or aggravated;
  • Kidnapping;
  • False imprisonment, or;
  • Any other criminal offense that results in physical injury or death.

If either parent has been convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor domestic violence or higher, there is a rebuttable presumption that shared custody is detrimental to the child. A “rebuttable presumption” places the burden on the abusive parent to prove to the court that shared custody would not be detrimental to the child. If the abusive parent cannot overcome the presumption, the court may not award shared custody.

In addition to a conviction for domestic violence, the court may also consider evidence of domestic violence or child abuse as additional evidence that shared custody would be detrimental to the child. While it does not create a rebuttable presumption against shared custody, the court may still consider it as one factor against awarding shared custody. Such evidence may include domestic violence arrests, restraining orders and testimony regarding a history of abuse.

Boca Raton Child Custody Attorneys

Child custody issues are always stressful. In cases involving domestic violence, the stress is amplified with the fear that your child may be placed in harm’s way if your abusive partner is granted custody. At the Law Offices of Schwartz | White, we understand the added fear that domestic violence can impart on your child custody case. Serving clients throughout South Florida from our Boca Raton office, our child custody attorneys will handle your case with sensitivity and respect, all the while fighting to get the custody arrangement that is in your child’s best interest. Contact our Boca Raton office today 561.391.9943 to schedule an appointment.

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