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How family courts approach domestic violence and custody

Many Florida parents have been subjected to acts of violence at the hands of their partners. For those who get the courage to leave an abusive relationship, the next step is often a child custody battle with their former abuser. Family courts face a difficult role in these cases, and there is no standard approach to handling custody cases that also involve claims of domestic violence.

Courts are supposed to place the best interests of the child at the forefront of each case. That said, there are also parental rights to take into consideration. When there are claims of domestic violence that are not backed by hard evidence, the court is left trying to determine the validity of those claims, while also seeking to protect the interests of the children caught in the middle.

Social science research has led to the presumption that children are best served by maintaining bonds with both of their parents. As such, courts try to allow both parents to have access to their kids. Unless the domestic violence has risen to a level where criminal charges and incarceration have come into play, or violence has been directed toward the kids, the victimized parent can expect the court to grant each parent the right to play a role in the lives of shared children.

In such cases, the best course of action is to ask the court to create structures that can provide a level of protection against further acts of domestic violence and can create documentation of future interaction. An example would be establishing a monitored environment for custody exchanges. Another example would be a rule that all communication between parents is to be via email only. Having these measures in place can make it easier for Florida parents to document future behavior, which can be helpful when later re-approaching the court to ask for a custody modification.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Can Family Courts Protect Children Exposed to Domestic Violence?", David Adams, Feb. 11, 2016

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