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What effect does a conviction have on child custody rights?

When Florida residents make important decisions in their lives, they often consider many different factors that can bear on the decision. Financial considerations, emotional considerations and other factors may all play a part in a person's decision making process.

The legal system operates in the same way, as judges often consider many different factors when deciding how to rule in a case. For example, when judges make decisions about child custody issues in a divorce, they typically consider a host of factors that are collectively known as the best interests of the child.

Last week, this blog discussed a pending bill that could change how custody decisions are made in Florida. It remains to be seen whether that bill will pass into law.

Under current law, Florida's public policy is to ensure that a minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents and to encourage parents to share the rights, responsibilities and joys of raising a child. Parental responsibility is typically ordered to be shared by both parents, unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.

For example, if a parent is convicted of certain crimes involving domestic violence, the law creates what is known as a rebuttable presumption of detriment to the child. This means the law presumes that it would be detrimental to the child to have shared parental responsibility based on the parent's conviction, but this presumption can be rebutted by the parent with evidence showing otherwise. Even if the court rules against the convicted parent, that parent still has obligations to provide financial support for the child.

Ultimately, courts will act to protect children from possible abuse or harm. Even if these issues are not a concern in the case, the court will typically try to do what is in the child's best interests when addressing custody issues between the parents.

Source: Florida State Legislature, "61.13 Support of children; parenting and time-sharing; powers of court," accessed on Mar. 5, 2016

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