Can a parent who committed violence get custody (parental responsibility) or visitation (time-sharing)?
The judge must order that the parental responsibility for a minor child be shared by both parents unless the judge believes that shared parental responsibility would be harmful (“detrimental”) to the child. In determining what is detrimental to the child, the judge must consider the following factors
- evidence of domestic violence, as defined by law;
- whether either parent reasonably believes that s/he or his/her minor child is or has been in immediate (imminent) danger of becoming a victim of domestic violence, as defined by law or sexual violence, as defined by law by the other parent;
- whether either parent reasonably believes that his/her minor child is or has been in immediate (imminent) danger of becoming a victim of an act of abuse, abandonment, or negelct, as defined by law by the other parent; and
- any other relevant factors.1
In any of the following circumstances, there is what’s known as a “rebuttable presumption” that it would be detrimental for the child to give the abusive parent shared parental responsibility and time-sharing; this means that the judge must assume that it would not be in the child’s best interest, however, the parent can present evidence to try to change the judge’s mind:
- the parent has been convicted of certain domestic violence crimes that are first degree misdemeanors or felonies;
- the parent is in prison due to circumstances that would be grounds for terminating that person’s parental rights as are explained in subsection (d) of FL Statute § 39.806;
- the parent has been convicted of, or had adjudication withheld for, various crimes related to sexual misconduct or kidnapping of a victim who was under 18 or who appeared to be under 18. You can view the list of crimes in subsection (1)(h)(1)(a) of FL Statute § 943.0435.2
If the judge decides to order visitation (time-sharing) by the parent who committed violence, you can ask that the visitation be supervised or very limited. The judge may do so if s/he believes it is necessary to protect your safety and the child’s safety. However, if the judge does not believe that you or your child remains at risk from the abuser, the judge may order unsupervised time-sharing.
If you feel there is a continuing risk of violence to you or your child, or if new incidents happen during the visitation, you may be able to apply for an injunction for protection against domestic violence to help keep you safe.
1 F.S.A. § 61.13(2)(c)(2)
2 F.S.A. § 61.13(2)(c)(3), (2)(c)(6)