October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and as October is winding down, we want to talk about an issue that affects all areas of family life and family law: domestic violence.
Domestic violence takes the lives of thousands of women each year – a majority of whom were trying to leave (or had already left) their relationship. Worse, 92% of domestic violence cases in Central Florida are dropped by the state’s attorney’s office and do not go through to court.
Every year, the citizens of Orange County get together around Lake Baldwin to participate in the annual domestic violence walk to raise awareness and allow victims to come together in solidarity, but obviously this by itself isn’t enough. As these sobering statistics show, Florida still has a long way to go in handling and resolving the problems caused by domestic violence.
Right now, investigators and members of Central Florida’s Domestic Violence Commission have been looking to other cities to improve the way domestic violence cases are handled. In the future, we may see Florida focusing its efforts on rehabilitation for abusers, lightening the load and effort required of the victim and minimizing the impact that these types of charges can have on families.
This is something that the family lawyers at Florida Family Law Clinic understand all too well. While most people see incidents of domestic violence only as criminal matters, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Below, we’re going to talk about three types of family law cases that can be impacted by domestic violence.
How Domestic Violence Affects Family Legal Matters
Family law attorneys have to deal with domestic violence in many different types of cases, and they clearly understand how these incidents can throw whole lives and families into a tailspin.
Family legal matters that are impacted by domestic violence include:
- Divorce – Domestic violence is sometimes the final catalyst that leads a couple to divorce. When you file for divorce in Florida, you are technically filing in a “no-fault” state. The only reason you need to cite for the divorce is “irreconcilable differences” – further details are not necessary.
However, this “fault” refers to legal fault, not emotional fault. Domestic violence can still be brought up in court, and will have an impact on many of the judge’s decisions.
- Alimony and Property Distribution – Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that the state divides property and assigns alimony based on what is fair and equitable. Because of this, a judge may take into account a history of domestic violence or spousal abuse when making these decisions – especially if they affected the victim’s ability to work or earn income for the household. Restraining orders may also require that an abuser stay away or relinquish certain property.
- Child Custody and Support – Whether or not you are getting a divorce, domestic violence accusations and restraining orders can prevent the accused individual from seeing their child. Even if the child is not a direct victim of abuse, the victim may include minor children in the terms of the restraining order.
If the child is suspected to be a victim, the Department of Child and Family Services (DCF) is required to conduct an investigation. If you do not cooperate with the DCF, the children may be placed in foster care.
Florida prefers parents to share custody. However, if a spouse has a history of domestic violence, even if there are no active restraining orders against him or her, Florida may allow sole custody and completely prohibit the offender from seeing his or her child.
If You Are Involved in a Domestic Violence Dispute
Beyond the three family law matters mentioned above, family lawyers also represent individuals in criminal cases involving domestic violence – both those who have been accused and those who are victims. Hiring a family lawyer to handle your criminal domestic violence case means getting someone on your side who will not only fight for your rights and your future, but who will make sure to keep your family’s best interests in mind every step of the way.
As a victim, you have options for filing restraining orders and keeping your abuser away from you and your children so all of you can live a safe, healthy life. Your restraining order can even include clauses about alimony and child support so you can get back on your feet financially as well as emotionally.
And if you have been accused of domestic violence, you deserve to have your rights and interests protected as well. At Florida Family Law Clinic, we understand that false accusations of domestic violence are sometimes made to get favorable divorce rulings (sole custody, higher child support payments, and so on), and we will fight for the rights of accused individuals to get a fair ruling based on the truth.
Need a domestic violence or family lawyer? Get in touch with us today.