*Trigger warning: discussion of domestic violence

The Influence of Domestic Violence on a Florida Divorce Case

Although Florida is a no-fault state, a spouse who experiences domestic abuse can benefit from the divorce process. Here’s how domestic violence affects divorce in Florida regarding property division, child custody, child support, and alimony.

Florida is an equitable distribution state, meaning spouses receive a fair division of assets and debts in the event of a divorce. However, the court may divide property unevenly if it believes it is fair and just. If the spouse can establish they have been domestically abused, a court may decide they deserve more than the abusive spouse in child custody, child support, and alimony.

What is Domestic Violence in Florida

Domestic violence is a pattern of adults’ abusive behaviors to maintain power and control over their intimate partners or former partners. Abusers utilize various tactics to coerce, intimidate, threaten, and frighten their victims. Florida Statute 741.28 identifies domestic violence as any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.

Coercive control often includes:

  • Physical violence
  • Sexual Violence
  • Emotional abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Economic abuse
  • Isolation
  • Pet abuse
  • Threatening children
  • Other behaviors meant to increase fear, intimidation, and power

People who experience or cause abuse are prevalent in all ages, races, religions, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, marital statuses, and economic statuses. Statistically, women are five times more likely than men to experience abuse by an intimate partner.

Related: Domestic Violence During COVID-19

How Domestic Violence Affects Child Custody & Child Support in Florida

In a typical divorce, Florida judges initially presume both parents should share custody unless it is detrimental for the child. If the court has charged a parent with a misdemeanor domestic violence charge or a more severe charge, the courts assume it will be detrimental for the child’s development to grant that parent custody. At the initial phase of every custody case, parents must inform a judge about any domestic violence, injunctions, or termination of parental rights with other children. The judge will consider any domestic violence or child abuse evidence presented at court.

In custody cases with a convicted parent, the court will determine if the child and convicted parent should have any contact in a separate hearing. The judge must believe the child’s physical, mental, and emotional health is not at risk.

If the judge believes it is in the child’s best interest to maintain contact with the convicted parent, the judge will arrange supervised visitation arrangements to protect the child and abused parent from future harm. During supervised visitations, the court may order a trained supervisor to oversee all visitation between the child and the abusive parent. The judge may also order the abusive parent to pay all costs of supervised visitations. In rare cases, a judge may terminate the abusive parent’s rights if deemed beneficial for the child. A judge may also create or modify child support orders against the alleged abuser without a hearing or prior notice to the alleged abuser.

Related: Fair Housing for Domestic Violence Victims

How Domestic Violence Affects Alimony in Florida

Permanent alimony is periodic payments of financial support paid to an ex-spouse indefinitely. In Florida, the purpose of the permanent alimony law is to provide for the needs of a former spouse.

To qualify for alimony in Florida, a judge will focus on the following factors:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage (seven or fewer years is short-term, seven-17 years is moderate-term, and 17 or more years is long-term)
  • Each spouse’s age
  • Each spouse’s physical and emotional health
  • Both spouse’s financial resources
  • Each spouse’s earning capacity, educational level, vocational skills, and employability and, if applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to find employment
  • Both spouses’ contributions to the marriage, including homemaking, childcare, education, and career-building of the other spouse
  • Whether either spouse will have parental responsibilities to minor children
  • Tax consequences of alimony, if any, to both spouses
  • All sources of income to both spouses

Although Florida courts typically do not consider spouses’ fault, domestic violence may indirectly influence the spousal support award. If domestic violence has negatively affected a spouse’s emotional health, physical health, earning capacity, education, and employability, a judge may increase alimony payments.

Are You a Victim of Domestic Violence?

If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence, call the Domestic Violence Hotline 1 (800)-500-1119.

In Florida, you may dial 711 for assistance with domestic violence.

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If you or a loved one would like to learn more about how domestic violence affects divorce in Florida, get your free consultation with one of our divorce attorneys today!