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Greyson’s Law in Florida: What You Need to Know

Tampa Florida child custody attorneys

In 2021, the state of Florida enacted a pivotal new law aimed at better protecting children caught in the middle of contentious family law cases involving domestic violence. Known as “Greyson’s Law,” this legislation specifically targets custody and visitation determinations in situations where one parent has perpetrated abuse against the other parent or the child.

The law is named for Greyson Kessler, a 4-year-old tragic victim of a murder-suicide during a court-ordered visitation with his father. Greyson’s story brought attention to the need for family courts to give greater consideration to the dynamics of domestic violence when deciding parenting plans. The goal is to prevent scenarios where an abusive parent still receives unsupervised access to the child.

This article will explore the heartbreaking story that inspired Greyson’s Law and the journey to enshrine enhanced protections into Florida legislation. We’ll cover the law’s key child protection provisions and the expected impact on Florida domestic violence law.

If you are dealing with a custody dispute, contact the Tampa divorce attorneys of All Family Law Group, P.A. online or call 813-672-1900 for a free consultation. We are committed to providing you with the best representation possible. Se habla Español.

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The Tragic Inspiration Behind Greyson’s Law

Greyson's Law

The Story of Greyson Kessler

The heartbreaking story of 4-year-old Greyson Kessler is the genesis of the child protection legislation that now bears his name. Greyson’s parents, John Stacey and Allison Kessler, had separated years earlier and shared custody of their young son. However, Mr. Stacey had sent threatening messages to Ms. Kessler leading up to the incident. Ms. Kessler filed an emergency petition with Broward Family Court just days before Greyson’s death, outlining her imminent fears for the safety of her child. but Florida law previously had no formal mechanism for allowing threats towards a parent to “create a nexus with a child.” 

Before the incident, Ms. Kessler filed contempt motions as well as requests to change the time-sharing arrangement with Stacey, and also asked for a psychological evaluation of Mr. Stacey. 

The court did not find that there was a threat to Greyson, however, and the previous state of the law enabled an incident in May 2021 with fatal consequences. Following a bitter argument over the phone, Nicholas arrived at Geneva’s home demanding to take Greyson. When she refused, he assaulted her and forcibly abducted their son. Tragically, young Greyson would lose his life just hours later.

The Legislative Response

The preventable tragedy ignited public outcry and advocacy from child safety groups. It set in motion a push for legislation to prevent such failures in family court judgment from ever enabling this kind of violence again. The bill was introduced to the Florida legislature in 2021 and was signed into law May 2023, taking effect in July 2023. 

Greyson’s memory lives on through the prominent law now protecting other children. It serves as a solemn reminder for the court to exercise greater discretion around custody and visitation when one parent has a history of domestic abuse. No child should meet the same fate as Greyson due to a lack of appropriate safeguards in the legal system designed to protect families.

Key Provisions of Greyson’s Law

Greyson's Law in Florida

Greyson’s Law strengthens child protection through concrete changes to Florida statutes governing custody and visitation determinations in family court. 

The legislation updates legal standards, and judges must consider and clarify factors that can limit shared parenting time for a minor child.

Enhancements to Child Protection Measures

Foremost, Greyson’s Law mandates new considerations for family courts’ decisions on custody and visitation plans. 

Judges now must formally take into account the dynamics of domestic violence (including sexual violence), coercive control, parental harm, and their impact on the child. Courts have greater discretion to order supervised visitation or even suspend access in cases with a documented history of domestic abuse. 

The goal is to keep kids safe and out of imminent danger.

Amendments to Florida Statutes

Amendment to Fla. Stat. §61.13: Consideration of Domestic Violence

Greyson’s Law amended Fla. Stat. §61.13, covering “Support of children; parenting and time-sharing; powers of court.”

It requires courts to consider any evidence of domestic violence, not just convictions. Moreover, evidence of domestic violence can create a rebuttable presumption that shared parental responsibility is not in the best interest of the child. 

The law also requires a court to consider evidence that a parent has a reasonable belief that they, or the minor child, is in imminent danger by the other parent of domestic violence, child abuse, abandonment or neglect, or sexual violence. 

These changes aim to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of children by ensuring that a parent’s history of violence is factored into judicial determinations regarding shared parental responsibility.

Update to Fla. Stat. §741.30: Strengthening Injunctions Against Abusers

The law also updates Fla. Stat. §741.30, making it easier for courts to deny custody or visitation rights to individuals who have violated restraining orders. This amendment protects children and their custodial parents from potential harm by restricting access for those disregarding legal injunctions to ensure family safety.

By baking in more rigorous standards around the effects of domestic violence, the hope is to prevent slip-ups in family court rulings that place children at risk. 

Greyson’s Law shifted Florida closer to model rules standardizing child wellbeing as the priority in custody cases strained by patterns of abuse.

Impact of Greyson’s Law on Families

Greyson's Law Florida

Greyson’s Law sets new precedents for how family courts in Florida must navigate custody and visitation decisions in the context of domestic violence. 

It aims to prevent oversight or leniency that places abused parents and children further in harm’s way.

Changes in Custody and Visitation Determinations

Florida law now requires judges to formally consider domestic abuse, coercive behaviors, and their effects on the child when weighing parenting time options. 

Whether granting full custody or creating a timeshare calendar, the court must demonstrate it accounted for any documented history of violence, control tactics, and violations of past restraining orders.

Supervised visitation or outright suspension of access are also more easily justified, especially if the abusive parent disregards injunctions meant to protect the family. 

In this sense, the law constrains judicial discretion by spelling out specific risk factors that should limit unsupervised shared custody arrangements.

Broader Implications for Domestic Violence Cases

More broadly, family attorneys see Greyson’s Law as redefining how seriously courts must take allegations of domestic violence when settling divorce and custody issues. 

Judges can no longer claim unawareness or downplay patterns of abusive conduct under the guise of keeping both parents involved in the child’s life. This shifts leverage to the protective parent.

The law thus puts abusive parents on notice that subsequent restraint, counseling, and demonstrated change may be prerequisites to petitioning for future custody rights. 

Simply avoiding more arrests may not suffice if a well-documented history of violence already works against them in family court under Greyson’s Law.

Summing it Up

As Greyson’s Law signifies, profound change can arise from unimaginable tragedy. The legislation firmly sets new guidelines for prioritizing child safety through restrictions on visitation and custody transfers relative to perpetrators of abuse.

If you are dealing with a child custody issue, contact the Tampa child custody attorneys of All Family Law Group, P.A. online or call 813-672-1900 for a free consultation. Se habla Español.

Our lawyers have assisted thousands of clients in understanding their rights and navigating each phase of a Tampa custody dispute. We represent your best interests in mediation, and trial if disputes arise, and give you peace of mind through a difficult time.

We are committed to providing you with the best representation possible.

All Family Law Group, P.A.
The law firm of All Family Law Group, P.A. provides legal services to the Florida cities including Tampa, Clearwater, Brandon, Riverview, Hyde Park, South Tampa, Ybor City, Northdale, Valrico, Gibsonton, Lithia, Mango, Palm River, Plant City, Seffner, Sun City Center, Wimauma, Apollo Beach, Ruskin, Temple Terrace, Carrollwood, Northdale, Westchase, Citrus Park, Town N Country, Thonotosassa, Lutz, Fish Hawk, New Tampa, St. Petersburg, Palm Harbor, MacDill Air Force Base and all of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco Counties. We will also represent DIVORCE clients in Polk, Hernando or Manatee Counties.

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