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In most cases where parents in the Ocala area are raising children while living apart, the courts will try to get the parents to work together so both parents can have a meaningful relationship with their children.

This is one reason why the courts of Central Florida are so willing to require shared parental responsibility, which is Florida’s preferred term to describe family law issues related to child custody and visitation.

Shared responsibility is not the norm in domestic violence situations

However, in households where domestic violence has been a problem, shared parental responsibility may be impractical if not downright unsafe.

Under Florida law, courts may not award shared parental responsibility if doing so would actually harm, that is, be detrimental, to the child.

Convictions related to domestic violence

The court must presume that a parent with certain convictions related to domestic violence should not share parental responsibility or even have broad access to his or her child.

In other words, even when awarding visits, the court’s top priority will be to protect victims and not to maintain the perpetrator’s relationship with his children.

The parent who has the conviction can present evidence to show that she will not harm the child and thus should have parental responsibility. Evidence of this nature may include, for example, that the person has attended classes, gone to counseling, complied with probation and the like.

Other evidence of domestic violence also matters

For a number of reasons, many acts of domestic violence never even get prosecuted in criminal court. However, judges can still hear other evidence of domestic violence when making child custody determinations. When allocating parental responsibility, the judge will have to consider credible evidence of domestic violence in its decision.

The bottom line is that, whether a parent or child is a victim of domestic violence or has been accused of the same, it will be important for that parent to understand his or her legal options and have a developed legal strategy.