Florida Court Discusses Domestic Violence in the Context of Custody Disputes

When a couple that has children decides to end their marriage, they will generally task the court with determining their paternal responsibility, such as how custody should be split. Prior to making custody decisions, courts consider a number of criteria, including whether one partner has committed acts of domestic abuse. Regardless of whether another court believes that custody should be adjusted because of domestic violence, if a family court issues an order granting timesharing rights, that ruling will govern parental rights. This was proven in a recent Florida decision in which the court overturned a domestic violence order that affected the father’s parenting rights to some extent. If you have any issues about your custody rights, you should speak with a skilled Florida family law lawyer promptly.

The Factual and Procedural History 

Allegedly, in 2016, the wife filed a petition for divorce. She also filed a petition seeking a domestic violence order against her spouse shortly after filing the divorce petition. She detailed multiple incidents in which her husband threatened her with violence, verbally harassed her, and pushed her in the years leading up to the filing of the domestic violence petition.

The court allegedly issued a default order against the spouse but did not include a provision regulating the parties’ minor children’s timesharing. Because the spouse had not received appropriate notice of the final hearing on the injunction, the court annulled the order and scheduled a new hearing in 2020. Following the hearing, the court issued another order, this time granting the wife full timesharing rights. The spouse filed an appeal, claiming that the injunction was in violation of the custody order issued by the family court.

Domestic Violence’s Effect on Child Custody Decisions

While child custody difficulties may arise in domestic violence cases, the Florida courts have concluded that the abbreviated domestic violence processes should not be used as the primary forum for resolving family law matters. Instead, a trial court should issue a temporary order instructing the parties to handle their custody and timesharing problems in a family court process, as the orders made in such a court would last longer than the duration of a domestic violence injunction.

As such, a court weighing domestic violence issues may issue an order granting a party sole timesharing privileges in a temporary parenting plan. The plan will only be effective until the order terminates or a court of that has jurisdiction over the matter issues an order affecting parental rights in a pending or subsequent action, however. In this case, the court agreed with the defendant that the injunction issued by the domestic violence court improperly overrode the family court’s custody ruling. As a result, the order was overturned to the extent that it determined custody rights.

Consult with a Capable Florida Lawyer

When it comes to custody disputes, Florida courts will always decide in the best interests of the children, but one court cannot usurp the jurisdiction of another when it comes to determining parental rights. If you need help with a custody issue, it’s a good idea to speak with an attorney to discuss your alternatives. The capable Miami attorneys of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A., can advise you of your rights and aid you in the pursuit of a just outcome. We have an office in Aventura, and we frequently represent people in divorce cases in Miami. You can contact us through our form online or at 800-596-0579 to set up a meeting.