TALLAHASSEE, FL- The Florida Legislature on Friday passed a bill requiring judges to consider charges of domestic or sexual abuse, involving either parent, when granting custody or arranging visitation. Sponsored by Senator Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton), and inspired by a local story, SB 904 reduces from a third degree felony to a first degree misdemeanor the level of a domestic violence conviction judges must consider when determining parental custody.
"I am so proud to have passed this legislation that will help ensure no child falls victim to the relationship of the parents," said Sen. Deutch. "While there is no doubt that children benefit from spending time with both parents, it is always necessary to determine how to best protect the child."
Sen. Deutch's efforts to revamp custody requirements began after learning the story of a constituent who left an abusive marriage, only to have her ex-husband during his approved visitation set fire to their home, killing their two children and himself. Senator Deutch recognized that not only are many felony domestic violence cases plead down to first degree misdemeanors, but that a parent is frequently granted shared custody or unsupervised visitation if they have a history of domestic violence not involving the children. With the support of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Senator Deutch worked for two years to change this.
The passage of SB 904 puts Florida in line with more than half of all states which currently have laws establishing a level of domestic violence conviction presumed to be detrimental to the child when making child custody and visitation awards.
The legislation next heads to the governor for signature.