How Restraining Orders Impact Child Custody Decisions
Living in an abusive situation is a horrible experience that no one should have to endure. A common aspect of leaving these environments, often in some relation to seeking a divorce, is a petition for a restraining or protective order to keep the abusive spouse away from victim and their children. Even if children are not the focal point of a domestic abuser, they still experience profound and negative repercussions from living in that type of atmosphere, particularly if they witness the violence. Leaving a child alone with a parent with a history of violence is not a good idea, and restraining orders can include provisions that limit or eliminate contact between the violent parent and the child. However, Florida law generally does everything possible to keep parents in regular contact with their children, so a true danger to the child is usually necessary before a court will restrict visiting the child or eliminate contact completely. How the terms of the restraining order will directly impact child custody issues depends on whether it was issued before or after the divorce case was completed and the full custody order put into effect. This distinction is important because whether the provisions of the parenting plan or restraining order will control child custody matters.
Timing of the Restraining Order
More often than not, restraining orders are sought before or at the very beginning stages of divorce. This approach gives the abused spouse a safe space to get his/her life back in order. Restraining orders can include provisions related to child custody and go so far as to order the abusive spouse away from child and prohibiting all forms of contact. Alternatively, supervised visitation may also be ordered, so the child is not left alone with the parent and any time together is in a designated place with personnel trained to control these situations. The level of restriction will depend on the evidence presented, especially the level of violence exhibited by the accused spouse. If the restraining order is issued before the divorce judgment is final, a rebuttable presumption against giving the accused parent parenting time is created as being not in the best interests of the child. If the restraining order comes after the divorce, the terms of the restraining order will override the provisions related to child custody in the divorce judgment.
Rebutting Restrictions on Parenting Rights
Whether the controlling terms related to child custody are developed as part of the divorce proceeding or in the restraining order process, the accused spouse has the right to rebut any finding that he/she poses a danger to the child and should have no or limited access. Evidence and testimony showing a lack of violence and reputation of good behavior is the best way to combat these allegations, but that will be weighed against the evidence presented by the accuser of regular abuse, so strength of the evidence is vitally important to court’s ultimate decision.
Contact a Florida Divorce Attorney
Domestic violence is a serious situation that should not be ignored, and the advice of an experienced family law attorney can be invaluable in getting the best possible outcome. All Family Law Group, P.A. understands the difficulties that come with domestic violence allegations and can help you navigate this complicated issue as smoothly as possible. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay for a free consultation. They can be reached at 813-672-1900.