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Family law addresses some of the most sensitive and personal aspects of our lives. The majority of Florida family law matters are civil matters, but matters such as domestic violence, child neglect, and juvenile delinquency can have both criminal and civil components. Even purely civil family law matters can become criminal matters if a court order, such as a child support order, is violated.
Family Law Matters
Family law includes:
- Time sharing (child custody and visitation)
- Child support
- Modification of support orders
- Non-custodial parents’ rights
- Step-parent adoption
- Name change
- Adult guardianship
- Domestic violence
- Child abuse and neglect
- Juvenile matters
- Estate planning
- Florida Department of Children and Families (DFC) actions
One of the most terrifying things that can happen to a parent is an encounter with Florida DCF. In Florida, it is a crime to fail to report child abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and the identity of the person who reports it is confidential. While this has surely saved many children from living in horrible conditions, it also lead to false accusations and children being ripped from their homes and families for no reason.
When the DCF takes your child away, they call it “sheltering”. In many types of cases, criminal charges will also be filed. The DCF may choose to continue sheltering your child, even if the criminal charges are dropped.
The DCF can take your child if someone reports that you use drugs in front of the child or use alcohol excessively. A report of abuse may stem from an innocent injury. Those who often make DCF reports include:
- Doctors and other healthcare workers
- Daycare workers
- Angry spouses or significant others
Unfortunately, the DCF may get involved in an acrimonious divorce, if an angry spouse or ex makes a false report. In cases of domestic violence, the victim may have difficulty getting their child back, even after the offender is removed from the home.
Child Support and Visitation are Separate Issues
One of the most common mistakes that estranged parents make is to take it upon themselves to punish the other parent for violating orders by withholding visitation or child support. By law, you cannot refuse the other parent court-ordered visitation because they fail to pay child support, nor can you stop paying child support because the other parent does not let you see your child.
This may seem unfair, but the court does not care about your sense of fairness. Child support and visitation are two separate orders, and trying to enforce one by violating the other is still a violation of a court order and a crime.