Parenting Plans and the Impact of Domestic Violence or Child Abuse

In Florida, when it comes to determining the parenting plan for a couple’s divorce, the courts have moved away from the concept of “custody” and have replaced it with a new idea known as parental responsibility. No longer are couples awarded custody, but there is new emphasis by the state to promote co-parenting and joint parenting responsibilities. The reason for the shift from the traditional custody arrangements are new studies released that co-parenting arrangements are actually in the best interest of the child, even if this means the child is shuttled back and forth between two different residences. The gravity of these findings show that generally, regardless of the home arrangement, two parents loving and supporting the child outweigh whatever potential harm associated with the lifestyle instability that comes from a recent divorce. If you are considering a divorce and need help navigating through these issues, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney.

Best Interest of the Child and Domestic Violence

There are situations in which it is not in the best interest of the child to have two parents present and available. This is largely where child abuse or domestic violence has occurred or the threat of these abuses is present. Unfortunately in Florida, domestic violence is only associated with physical abuse or the threat of physical abuse, but does not look at other kinds of domestic violence that are emotional and psychological.

Florida’s Presumption and Rebuttable Presumption

Florida statute requires that there is a presumption that two parents are better than one, except where there is child abuse or domestic violence within the household. If one of the parents has asserted that there has been child abuse or domestic violence, or if one of the parents was actually convicted of abuse or domestic violence, these assertions create a rebuttable presumption that a two-parent arrangement would actually not be in the best interest of the child, but could be detrimental to the child. Once evidence and these assertions are put forth, it will be up to the allegedly abusive parent to put forth evidence of some kind to rebut this claim. At this point, the court will decide whether the two-parent arrangement will be detrimental to the child. If they determine that it will be detrimental to the child, then the abusive parent will not be permitted to receive parental responsibility of the child. The abusive parent may also be subject to restrictions on the type of contact that he or she may have with the child and the extent of the contact. This does not, however, affect the parent’s financial responsibility. Child support will be paid regardless of the time-sharing arrangement that is set out by the court.

Other Factors May Decide Whether Joint Parenting is in the Best Interest of the Child

It is not only domestic violence or child abuse that may lead the courts into determination that co-parenting is not ideal for a specific household. The court, in determining whether there should be sole parental responsibility of a minor child, will have the opportunity to evaluate several factors that assert that a sole parent responsibility arrangement will be more beneficial than a co-parenting arrangement. Some of the factors that may affect this decision are the following:

  • The capacity and disposition of each parent;
  • The child-parent relationship and the preference of the child(ren);
  • Whether the domicile that each parent is providing to the child(ren) is comparable to that from before the divorce;
  • The comparable qualify of life that the child(ren) had before and after the divorce;
  • The mental, emotional, psychological, and physical health of each parent; among others.

Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation regarding parenting plans and how to limit contact between a child and a parent who is violent or abusive.