Domestic violence is an unfortunately common issue affecting millions of American households each year. The National Domestic Violence Hotline statistics show that, on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, which includes men, women as well as children. Florida laws are designed to protect victims and their children in these types of circumstances. Therefore, domestic violence can have a severe impact on numerous aspects of a divorce case and even work in the victim’s favor in terms of a divorce settlement.
In Florida, domestic violence is not considered grounds for divorce, meaning that you cannot file for divorce based on your spouse’s violent behavior. Florida is a no-fault divorce state, meaning no one is to blame for the breakdown of the relationship. By law, you need to claim that your marriage is irretrievably broken and that you or your spouse has been a Florida resident for at least six months before filing for divorce.
Florida Statutes §741.28 (2) defines “Domestic violence means 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.” If your spouse engages in any of the mentioned types of violence, you may be allowed to obtain a restraining order. This type of order is used by a court to protect an individual involved in an alleged domestic violence situation, preventing a spouse from contacting the other one in any way. If they violate the order, they could get arrested.
A domestic violence charge can affect the outcome of a divorce settlement tremendously. In some cases, the abusive spouse would settle on favorable terms when trying to hide their abusive behavior from the light of a courtroom. Although each situation is unique, these areas could have a significant impact directly influenced by a domestic violence claim:
- Marital Assets Division: Florida is considered an equitable distribution state. By law, all properties have to be divided equitable between both parties. The judge has the power to determine what is considered a reasonable division and may consider domestic violence if they feel it is relevant. In some cases, the abused spouse may be entitled to a more significant portion of any marital assets, as well as rights to the family home.
- Parental Responsibilities: In Florida, timesharing and parenting time are awarded based on what’s in the best interest of the children. Usually, shared parental responsibility is the goal, but a domestic violence charge may affect these rights for the abuser. The judge may restrict the abuser parent’s timesharing and parenting time or, in extreme cases, terminate the parental rights, to protect the children.
- Spousal support: The primary consideration when deciding spousal support is the financial need of the receiving spouse based on physical and emotional health, income, skills, and employability and the ability to pay off the paying spouse. If domestic violence has affected the abused spouse’s ability to be self-supporting, a domestic violence injunction can be added to be considered by the judge.
To learn more read our related blog Escaping Domestic Violence
If you and your children are enduring physical and psychological abuse because you are living in a violent environment, divorce is your only way out. Don’t think twice and seek help right away. Divorce should be a last resort, but in these cases, it is the best and only final solution. If you or someone you know is in an unsafe situation, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
At Seff & Capizzi Law Group, we regularly assist clients and provide valuable information for those that need assistance in understanding how to approach this particular situation in their own lives. If you are not sure if getting a divorce or mediation would be the best option for you, please call us at (954) 920-9220. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.