One of the most common reasons people stay in an abusive relationship is for their children, but when your child is in an abusive home, you need to take the right steps to protect them. Emotionally, this can be very difficult, but the legal steps you can take to protect your child are relatively straight-forward.
Asking for help
For most parents leaving domestic violence behind, asking for help is the hardest part. Give yourself permission to ask for help; you deserve it. And your child deserves a safe, peaceful home. There are many resources you can use in Florida, including women’s shelters, hotlines and community groups. Many of these groups coordinate with Florida officials to offer safe housing, financial support and legal aid. But, they cannot help until you ask them to.
Taking legal precautions
Once you are in a safe place, you can start to think about your next steps. Legal action can be overwhelming, but legal help is available. You will need to do a couple of steps, including:
Gathering any evidence you have of the abuse, including pictures, medical records and other documentation
Speaking with an attorney about your rights as a parent and how any protective order will affect both you and your child
Establishing a custody agreement that accounts for both your safety and that of your child, including petitioning for sole custody if necessary
In some cases, abuse is grounds for terminating parental rights, but it is more common for parents to maintain some level of visitation and involvement with their child. The court will put your child’s well-being as its primary focus throughout any disputes, but now is the time to advocate for your child and their safety physically, mentally and emotionally.
Parenting is hard, but you aren’t alone
In addition to the formal legal steps, you may consider seeking counseling and other services for both you and your child. Emotional recovery can take more time than physical recovery, but you can create the better life you deserve.