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Can domestic abuse allegations affect child custody in a divorce?

Divorce requires separating couples in Florida to put aside their differences and make decisions that may not align with their personal interests to protect the well-being of their children. These decisions are not always made amicably. Circumstances can arise where one parent alleges the other parent mentally, emotionally or physically abused him or her and/or the kids. The courts do not take allegations of domestic abuse lightly, especially with children and child custody concerns in the mix. 

Some spouses make false claims of abuse to hurt their partners and compromise their parental and child custody rights. Not all allegations are false. Divorce cases where there is a history of abuse can alter the parameters of any custody arrangement. 

Are the allegations truthful? 

Allegations of abuse can be damaging, especially when the alleged abuser is innocent. The spouse who alleges there is a history of abuse must provide evidence to support such claims. Previous convictions, police reports, witness statements and other documentation are often sufficient enough to help the courts determine if the other parent poses a threat to children. The courts also use other factors, such as if the abused party sought outside or professional help and took other actions to see to his or her and the kids’ safety. 

How do allegations affect child custody decisions?

If there is a prior criminal history of abuse, the courts will look into prior convictions for domestic abuse. If one parent has domestic violence criminal convictions, she or he must prove to the courts that she or he is not a detriment to the health and safety of the children. State law does not automatically strip parental rights for convictions, but supervised visitation and co-parenting are often the outcome. Depending on the evidence and circumstances in the child custody battle, the courts may also move to deny parental access to the kids and award sole custody to the other parent.

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