Divorce (with or without children), regardless of what the issues for that family may be, is difficult enough physically and mentally. However, what happens when a spouse prior to or subsequent to the filing of a divorce, commits or is accused of committing domestic violence against the other spouse or any household family member? Well, let’s just say this spouse would have a lengthy and more costly legal battle ahead of them.
Section 741.28 of our Florida Statutes defines domestic violence as any assault, battery, 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. (Fl. Stat. Ann. § 741.28 (2002).) First, the consequences for a spouse accused of domestic violence vary immensely. These consequences may result in temporary and/or final injunction for protection entered against the spouse; temporary or permanent leave from the marital home; temporary supervised or permanent supervised time-sharing (if children are involved); increased legal costs; termination of parental rights or required classes to attend, such as anger management and a 26 class batterer’s intervention program and mental health evaluations. These are the most common and are only a few of the negative impacts domestic violence may have on a family.
Understanding the severity of the consequences above, prior to a spouse committing an act of domestic violence, may deter that spouse from acting in a violent or improper manner. Each case impacts the other regardless of whether we represent the accused spouse or the victim spouse.
When domestic violence occurs, the party accused of domestic violence is almost guaranteed to be served with a temporary injunction for protection because the required burden of proof is low. This temporary injunction, depending on the facts of your case and the quality of your representation, may then subsequently turn into a final injunction. These injunctions require certain provisions to follow in order for a party not to be in violation.
The victim spouse involved in a domestic violence altercation may be awarded temporary exclusive use of the parties’ marital home (until final injunction is determined). This impacts both spouses, especially if children are involved, because now one spouse is maintaining the marital home on his or her own, and the other spouse now must find another temporary or permanent place to live.
If children are involved, then the parents may be forced to find a supervised visitation center for the accused spouse to exercise his/her right to visit the children. The process to set up timesharing at a visitation center takes time and money. Depending on the severity of the domestic violence, a spouse convicted of domestic violence may also be forced to terminate his/her parental rights, a result that happens more than parents may know. Lastly, hours of classes are almost a guarantee for a spouse accused of domestic violence. These classes almost always interfere with everyday schedules and require additional costs.
If you or your spouse decides to file for a divorce, arguments are almost always guaranteed to ensue, and it is imperative for both spouses to be aware of the legal ramifications he or she may be faced with should those arguments turn into verbal or physical violence. A family, especially with children, is already faced with tough decisions to amicably resolve the divorce. It is imperative, that when arguments get hostile or potentially violent, to not act, and understand the consequences of your actions.
Joseph Zisser is an associate attorney at Zisser Law, where he specializes in criminal and marital law.