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Sharing Child Custody With An Abuser


Domestic violence has existed as long as humans have engaged in intimate relationships, and with modern research and advocacy, the unfortunate prevalence of this behavior is reported and more well-known. Escaping these situations is extremely difficult, especially if children are involved. There may be concerns about employment or finding a place to live if the dynamics of the relationship or the age of one’s children make working impossible. In fact, in these situations victims are more likely to return to the abusive relationship because of money constraints, as well as a tendency to follow the adage that two parents are always better than one. However, using domestic violence community support programs, along with friends and family, can offer a way out for victims and offer a safe space. Taking the step to file for divorce requires courage that should be applauded, but beyond the challenges of establishing a new normal, if the couple shares children, the abusive spouse will likely expect to see them on a regular basis. This situation greatly complicates the already difficult issue of child custody, and while laws exist to restrict or eliminate parenting time, the reality is, these safeguards are not always enforced. Getting the help a victim needs to secure his/her welfare is of paramount importance, and a discussion of how to ensure the legal mechanisms that exist to protect abuse victims are implemented, as well as how to cope if shared parenting cannot be avoided, will follow below.

Securing Legal Assistance

For a variety of reasons, victims of abuse may choose to refrain from reporting incidents, decline to pursue protective orders, or return to the abusive environment after leaving. Unfortunately, courts tend to use this information as a reason to assume any claims of abuse of false, and simply treat the case as a high-conflict divorce or custody matter. The psychology and financial practicalities behind such decisions are often dismissed or poorly understood by the courts and the psychological experts they use to evaluate domestic violence cases. To overcome these assumptions and bias, a victim will need to be vocal about what happened and start amassing detailed documentation of every incident that included abuse, so the court realizes a pattern exists that needs examining. Further, with the help of an experienced family law attorney, a protective order should be sought, which, even if unsuccessful, still serves as evidence against shared parental responsibility.

Coping with an Abusive Ex

Florida, and most other states, have child custody statutes that specifically require the exercise of parenting time in cases of abuse be supervised, if permitted at all. However, as mentioned above, the enforcement of these provisions is not guaranteed, and the other parent must find ways to limit the abusive party’s access to them, and ability to harm his/her children. While this situation is far from ideal, and does tend to reinforce the control issues that prompt domestic violence in the first place, the abused parent can take steps to minimize the influence of the abuser. First, the abused parent can ask for a secure custody exchange location, dedicated center or police station in most areas, that prevents the abuser from interacting with the victim alone. Failing that arrangement, pickups and drop-offs should occur at school or daycare so direct face-to-face contact is unnecessary. Further, the victim can restrict interactions to written communications, and record every incident of abuse toward him/her or the child. Outside of communications about the child, every other attempt to connect should be ignored. Finally, the parenting plan should be self-executing, meaning all the details of vacations, holidays, and other potential issues with parenting time should be laid out in the plan, eliminating the need to discuss or negotiate the terms.

Get Help

Domestic violence should never be faced alone, and the experienced and compassionate attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. understand the severity of your situation, and will fight to get you the appropriate result. Contact the Fort Lauderdale law firm for a free consultation.



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