Living under the specter of domestic violence is one of the most crippling set of circumstances a person can experience. Never knowing what will set off an abuser leaves the victim in a perpetual state of fear that makes taking action almost impossible. Taking the steps to leave this situation requires a lot of courage, especially if the victim plans to file for divorce. It is frequently necessary for abused spouses to move out of the marital home and away from the reach of the other spouse prior to informing him/her about the divorce case. It may seem that domestic violence is mainly the problem of the poor and unemployed, but it happens in every economic class. A recent news story about the divorce of state Rep. Alan Grayson discusses allegations of domestic abuse made by his former spouse throughout their 20-year marriage. The state recognizes the vulnerable position victims are in physically and emotionally, and as a consequence, included provisions in Florida divorce law that attempt to erect safeguards to protect battered spouses. An overview of the law on this issue will follow below.
The most direct way to deal with domestic violence is to ask a court for a protective order that demands the alleged abuser stay away from the victim. But, this procedure does not take into account the parental rights of the alleged abuser or the risk posed to an abuser’s children by maintaining contact. Consequently, the intersection of divorce and domestic violence mainly relates to the type of relationship and access the abusive parent should have to the child. Parenting plans are the documents that lay out the responsibility and authority each parent will hold over the child and how much time the child will spend with each. If there is a lot of dispute over these issues, which could certainly happen in this type of situation, the standard protocol is to order the parents to parenting coordination where a third party helps the parents resolve the disagreements. In families with domestic violence however, this process is not an option unless both parents agree to participate and are given an opportunity to consult with a lawyer or domestic violence advocate before giving consent. Further, the court will thoroughly probe the consent given by each party to make sure it is voluntary and freely given.
A court must approve a parenting plan before it is enforceable, and the overriding factor in a judge’s analysis of appropriateness of an arrangement is the best interests of the child. Normally, both parents are given some measure of parenting time unless there is something that would be detrimental to the child. In that vein, Florida law specifically states that evidence of or a conviction for domestic violence is automatically seen as a detriment, and this could result in a judge limiting or denying contact between the abuser and the child depending on the circumstances.
Once the divorce is finalized and the parenting plan in place, if the parent with primary responsibility for the child wants to relocate, the parent must first receive permission from the court. One factor a court uses when evaluating whether to give permission for relocation is history of a domestic violence by either parent since the decision ultimately rests on what is in the best interests of the child. However, if one parent relocates to escape domestic violence, the move is not viewed as a violation of the parenting plan.
Get Legal Advice
If you are seeking a divorce from a marriage with domestic violence, it is important to work with an attorney knowledgeable about effects of domestic violence on divorce. Protecting you and your family from further violence is of paramount importance, and an attorney will know the options available to keep your spouse away from you. The Tampa Bay law firm of All Family Law Group, P.A. has extensive experience in areas of family law, including domestic violence, and can help you get the fresh start you need. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+