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When Domestic Violence Impacts Child Custody in Divorce


When it comes to child custody in Florida divorce, the courts generally prefer shared physical and legal custody so that each parent can participate equally in decision-making and in the raising of the kids to the largest extent possible. However, when there is a history of domestic violence (DV) in families, shared living arrangements and decision-making authority can be devastating, and sole custody is often sought.

Should Survivors of DV Fight for Sole Custody? 

It can be difficult to stand up and fight for yourself and your kids when dealing with a violent spouse.   When they divorce their abusers, survivors may fear that their abusive partner will manipulate the situation by lying in court in an attempt to discredit the survivor’s parenting abilities. Survivors may wonder if that could lead to a survivor losing custody all together, and whether it might be better to avoid vexing a controlling partner and risking their wrath and attempts at revenge.  While not every attorney is familiar with these situations, at WiseLieberman, our experienced divorce and custody attorneys can help you to obtain a safe, nonviolent environment for you and your children where your abuser has limited, if any, access.

Best Interests of the Child 

Florida courts must act in the best interests of the children involved in custody cases. While having two loving and supportive parents is beneficial to kids, when one parent is abusive and dangerous, the court must weigh the information presented in making a custody decision.  If circumstances warrant, courts may veer from the preferred norm of joint custody.  However, that means victims of abuse have to present strong—if not indisputable—evidence of previous abuse and its impact on the family.

Convincing the Court of the Problem 

How can you convince a judge that you are a survivor of domestic violence?  While some evidence is more convincing than others, anything that you share with the court will be considered as custody determinations are made.  If possible, assemble the following pieces of evidence:

  1. Calendar or journal entries documenting abuse;
  2. Law enforcement records showing their response to calls of domestic violence;
  3. Pictures of wounds sustained due to abuse;
  4. Photographs of items destroyed or of the home in disorder in the aftermath of violence;
  5. Medical documentation of physical harm endured by survivors;
  6. Records indicating you’ve sought shelter in the past;
  7. Statements from friends, teachers, or others substantiating indications of abuse;
  8. Digital evidence of threats including menacing texts emails, voicemails etc.;
  9. Copies of previous protective orders that have been issued;
  10. Pictures of weapons used against you by your abuser.

Courts Respond to Findings of Domestic Violence 

Individuals, particularly children, who have survived domestic violence deserve protection, and the court can order a custody arrangement that seeks to do just that.  Findings of fact and legal explanations must be offered for the final custodial decision, which could include supervised visitation, public custody exchanges, or, in some cases, no contact with the abusive parent at all. Alternatively, the possibility for shared custody is always in play.  That’s why it’s so important to provide the court with as much proof of the abuse as possible.

Advocating for You 

At WiseLieberman our dedicated and compassionate Boca Raton divorce attorneys always fight for the best possible outcomes for you. To discuss your situation, schedule a confidential consultation in our Boca Raton office today.

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