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How Does Domestic Violence Impact Divorce in Florida?

David Scott, P.A. Aug. 20, 2022

It’s not easy to go through with a divorce, but in some cases, a divorce is necessary for the safety of yourself and your children. As a victim of domestic violence, divorce may literally save your life.

Divorce can take months, and usually relies on cooperation from both spouses. If your spouse is not cooperating – or worse, threatening you throughout the process – how will this violence impact your ability to get a divorce? What can you do throughout the process to ensure the safety of your family?

Remember, Florida is a “No-Fault” Divorce State

Let’s just get this out of the way: Florida is a “no-fault” divorce state. Whether your spouse abused you, cheated on you, or just isn’t your soulmate anymore – it won’t matter in a court of law. This can be good and bad for your case.

All you have to tell judges is that your marriage was “irretrievably broken” and that you suffer from “irreconcilable differences.” This is easier to prove than domestic violence, and will help to let the process continue.

However, without a court knowing that domestic violence was involved, the case is treated like any other divorce. Extra steps need to be taken in order to physically protect yourself and your children.

What are those steps?

If You Are In Danger, Get a Protection Order

We’ve all seen stories of marriages or divorces gone wrong. Just a few weeks ago, a Florida mother was rescued from a kidnapping that involved her estranged husband. During the 48 hours in which she was held captive, her husband allegedly tried to kill her three times.

If your spouse is violent or has been violent in the past, do not try to work out your marriage, divorce, parenting plan, and so on face-to-face. Seek help instead. Know that your safety is more important than the logistics of separating. Your lawyer can always negotiate the legal matters for you.

If you are in fear of danger, you may be able to obtain a protection order. Protection orders require a spouse (or any person who puts you in immediate fear of danger or harm) to stay away from you. The terms of a protection order vary from case to case, but typically include the following requirements.

  • Prohibition from contacting the victim

  • Prohibition from entering victim’s home (even if the home is shared)

  • Prohibition from contacting/visiting children

  • Prohibition of making large purchases/financial moves

  • Payment of alimony or child support

Violating a protection order may send your spouse to jail, so it is a good reason to stay out of your way and keep you out of harm until the divorce is finalized. In some cases, protection orders can be made permanent.

Domestic Violence Can Impact Issues Like Parenting Time and Alimony

Once you are in a safe place, divorce proceedings can continue and you can fight for the assets, compensation, and parenting time that you deserve. While your spouse’s history of domestic violence will not have an impact on why you’re getting a divorce, it will have an impact on what happens after you get a divorce. While you are going through the divorce process, know that domestic violence can impact the following:

Distribution of Assets: Florida distributes assets based on what is fair, rather than equally. Judges will look at factors including employment, ability to work, contributions to homemaking, and so on. If your spouse’s violence impacted your ability to contribute to the home or contribute financially, than it may impact the way that assets are distributed during your divorce.

Child Custody: While Florida tends to award joint custody to parents after a divorce, no judge wants to put a child in an unsafe environment. If your spouse has been violent in the past, there is a chance they will continue to be violent and direct it toward your children. Sole custody is offered specifically to victims of domestic violence. Your spouse’s violent behavior toward you and/or your children should be brought up while discussing custody arrangements.

Alimony and Child Support: So you’ve taken on more responsibilities at home. If your career has been impacted by your spouse’s violence, sole custody may be more of a financial burden than you can initially handle. This is where alimony and child support payments come in. Your spouse may be required to pay a certain amount of money each month so that you can properly take care of your children.

Thinking of filing for divorce? Need to apply for a protection order? Talk to a Florida family lawyer immediately.