When determining child custody, courts consider a lot of factors, including any instances of domestic violence. Acting in the best interest of the child is everyone’s number-one priority, which is why courts take instances, even allegations, of domestic violence very seriously.
If the domestic violence occurred after the child custody orders were issued, a parent can file to have the orders modified. Child abuse (of any kind) typically guarantees that the orders will be modified. Courts can modify custody orders if it is proven that:
- the modification is in the child’s best interest.
- there has been a significant change in circumstances that affect the child’s welfare.
If a parent is worried about their child’s safety, they should immediately contact the police (911) and/or the Florida Department of Children and Families to report the abuse. They should also reach out to a family law attorney.
Emergency Temporary Custody in Florida
When a child is in danger, Florida courts allow parents to file for an emergency hearing to gain child custody. Depending on the circumstances, parents can obtain emergency temporary custody or have a “warrant to take physical custody of the child” issued (see Florida Statute § 61.534 and § 61.517).
To get a warrant for physical custody, the petitioner will need to prove that the child is in “imminent danger” or at risk of being removed from the state. Imminent danger can include but is not limited to:
- Threats to the child’s safety or of an impending abduction
- Signs of child abuse or neglect
- Evidence of substance abuse (by the parent against whom the petition is filed)
- Major changes in the lives of the parent and/or child that threaten the child’s safety
If the court denies this petition, you will need to seek custody and protection for your child via the modification process. An attorney can help a parent file for modification. To protect the safety of both parent and child, attorneys can also help parents obtain protective orders.
Can a Parent Charged with Domestic Violence Be Awarded Custody?
While the goal of most child custody cases is to keep both parents involved in their child’s life, the child’s safety is always the first priority. If a parent has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor charge (or worse), judges will likely consider that parent to be a threat to the child’s safety, thus jeopardizing their right to maintain any form of custody (or even visitation).
If a parent hasn’t been convicted but still faces allegations, courts will review evidence of domestic violence or child abuse. To obtain custody, the accused parent will need to prove that they are not a danger.
In court, the accused parent can submit evidence, such as witness testimonies or the successful completion of anger management or batterer program. In lieu of child custody, a judge may award the parent supervised visitation rights.
What Is Considered an Unfit Parent?
According to Florida Statutes § 751.05, a parent can be deemed unfit if they have abused, abandoned, or neglected the child. Legally, abuse means any act or threat of violence—including physical or mental injury and harm as well as sexual abuse—that causes or can cause a child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to suffer (Florida Statutes § 39.01).
Speak with Our Attorneys
Need help navigating your child custody case? At the Law Office of Russell S. Hershkowitz, L.L.C., our legal team is dedicated to helping our clients navigate child custody cases involving a parent presumed to be violent.
Whether you are the accused parent or concerned parent, we are prepared to help you obtain the best possible outcome in court. Our attorney are prepared to have your back by filing the necessary paperwork, collecting evidence for court, and more.
With over 25 years of experience, you can trust our child custody attorney to offer you personalized and trustworthy representation. For a case consultation, call us today at (407) 753-4111 or reach out online.