When a couple with children divorces, they will typically ask the court to determine their parental rights, including how custody should be divided. Courts weigh numerous factors prior to issuing custody decisions, including whether either party engaged in acts of domestic violence. Once a family court issues a timesharing order, though, that order will dictate parental rights regardless of whether another court determines that custody should be modified due to domestic violence. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court reversed a domestic violence injunction to the extent it altered the father’s custody rights. If you have questions regarding your custody rights, it is advisable to consult an experienced Florida family law attorney as soon as possible.
The Facts of the Case
Reportedly, the wife filed for divorce in 2016. Shortly after she filed the divorce petition, she filed a petition for a domestic violence injunction against the husband. In the domestic violence petition, she set forth numerous instances where the husband threatened her with acts of violence, verbally abused her, and shoved her in the years preceding the petition.
Allegedly, the court entered a default injunction against the husband but did not include a provision regarding the parties’ timesharing of their minor children. In 2020, the court vacated the injunction and scheduled a new hearing because the husband had not received proper notice of the final hearing on the injunction. Following the hearing, the court again issued an injunction and granted the wife 100% of the timesharing rights. The husband appealed, arguing that the injunction conflicted with the family court custody order.
The Impact of Domestic Violence on Custody Determinations
The court explained that while issues of child custody may be implicated in domestic violence actions, the Florida courts have determined that abbreviated domestic violence proceedings should not be the main forum in which to determine family law issues. Instead, the better practice would be for a trial court to issue a temporary order and direct the parties to litigate their custody and timesharing disputes in a family court proceeding, as the orders entered in such a court would remain in effect beyond the temporary life of a domestic violence injunction.
To that end, a domestic violence court may grant a petitioner with 100% of the timesharing rights in a temporary parenting plan, but the temporary plan will only remain in effect until the order expires or an order is entered by a court of competent jurisdiction in a pending or subsequent action affecting parental rights. Here, the court ultimately agreed with the defendant that the domestic violence injunction impermissibly overrode the family court order regarding custody. Thus, the court reversed the injunction to the extent it determined custody rights.
Meet with a Trusted Florida Attorney
Florida courts will always rule in the best interests of children in determining custody issues, but one court cannot usurp another’s authority with regard to determining parental rights. If you need assistance with a custody matter, it is smart to meet with an attorney to assess your options. The trusted Florida child custody lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. are adept at helping people fight to protect their interests in family law cases, and if you hire us, we will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at 800-283-7442 to set up a conference.