West Palm Beach Custody Dispute Law Firm
The issue of parenting time (formerly “custody” and “visitation”) is often one of the most contentious issues in a divorce or paternity action in Florida. Admittedly, reaching an amicable agreement with the other parent may be the best option to reduce the stress and anxiety on you and your children and prevent the escalation of the cost of your divorce or paternity action. Many parents find it difficult to reach such an amicable agreement because of a deeply held desire to exercise a larger share of parenting time, concerns over the parenting ability of the other parent, the need to relocate with the minor child, or hostile contentious emotional issues involving the other parent.
Our experienced West Palm Beach high conflict custody attorney James S. Cunha and his legal team understand the special challenges involved in high conflict custody cases. While we consistently work to diffuse the hostility and reach an amicable agreement on as many issues regarding parenting time-sharing, decision making responsibility, and other child custody dispute issues, we know sometimes this is simply not realistic.
There are certain situations where child custody disputes are less likely to be resolved without contentious litigation, including the following:
- Substance Abuse by a Parent: Where the other parent has a substance abuse issue, mandatory drug testing and counseling may be appropriate to protect your children. Depending on the specifics of the situation, a court may even impose supervised visitation for the other parent. The party that has a substance abuse issue may aggressively dispute substance abuse allegations and the limited form of parent-child contact that may be appropriate in this situation.
- Domestic Violence: Evidence that the other parent has been convicted of domestic violence (first degree misdemeanor or a more serious offense) automatically creates a rebuttable presumption of detriment to the child. See Fla. Stat. 61.13(2)(c)(2). If the parent convicted of domestic violence fails to rebut this presumption after he or she is advised by the court that the presumption exists, then time-sharing and decision-making regarding the child may not be granted to the parent convicted of domestic violence. Thirty percent of all divorces are believed to involve a history of domestic violence. The impact of the presumption against a parent with a domestic violence conviction makes it virtually unavoidable that these cases will result in highly contested custody disputes.
- Parental Relocation Cases: The economic realities of a divorce make it common that one of the parents may need to relocate for financial, career or family support reasons. When parents are separated by a significant geographic distance, this makes frequent and continuing contact with both parents more difficult. If the court approves the move of a parent with the minor child, this often results in practical limitations on the non-moving parent’s time with the children. When a parent seeks to relocate with the minor children of a relationship, these are among the most vigorously fought Florida high conflict custody disputes.
- Allegations of Parental Abuse or Neglect of the Child: Many times child abuse or neglect allegations will be made against a parent in the context of a divorce or paternity actions. These cases commonly involve serious issues of proof and evidence regarding the allegations. The impact on the accused parent’s relationship with the minor child can be devastating so these cases are bitterly contested.
These are only a few common examples of the types of child custody cases that tend to result in high conflict custody disputes. Anytime one parent alleges a lack of fitness by the other parent, the custody dispute is likely to be extremely contentious because the other parent generally will contest the allegations of unfitness. The parent alleged to be unfit also will tend to have bitter feelings about the nature of the allegations, which increases that parent’s feelings of anger and bitterness. These feelings also may cause the accused parent to dig in and fight more tenaciously.
Representing Parents Involved in Contentious Custody Disputes
A common form of high conflict custody dispute involves conscious attempts by a parent to alienate children from the other parent. This pattern of alienation may involve a wide range of conduct, including the following:
- Making derogatory statements about the other parent in the children’s presence
- Interference or lack of cooperation in facilitating the parenting time of the other parent
- False allegations of domestic abuse, child abuse or substance abuse
- Demonstrating an unwillingness to promote frequent and continuing contact with the other parent
One of the factors a Florida court considers in structuring a parenting plan is a parent’s willingness to promote a continuing relationship with the other parent. Florida courts strongly favor a parenting time arrangement that provides substantial contact and parenting time with both parents. Family law judges view tactics designed to alienate children from the other parent extremely negatively and may penalize a parent for such conduct. Even if you are involved in an extremely bitter child custody dispute, it is important not to express disparaging views or comments about the other parent. While it can be very difficult to maintain a positive attitude toward the other parent in a high conflict custody dispute, a Florida family law judge is much more inclined to look favorably at a parent that manages this difficult task.
No matter where you are located, experienced Palm Beach contested child custody lawyer James S. Cunha and his legal team are just a phone call away. Even if you just have family law questions about contested divorce issues but have not decided to take action, we can provide initial answers to help you determine the best possible approach to your challenging family law issues so call us today.
The Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. assist clients in all Divorce and Family Law Matters throughout West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Boynton Beach, Jupiter, Delray Beach, and Boca Raton in Palm Beach County. We also offer legal representation to clients who reside in Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee, Hendry, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties.