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Common Issues Associated with High Conflict Child Custody Disputes


Child custody is a delicate and highly volatile issue that can produce heated disputes between divorcing parents. Ideally, the parents are truly fighting for what they believe to be best for the child, but in other cases, pushing back on child custody can also be used as a way to punish the other spouse. Regardless of the motivation, a parent facing conflict over child custody must respond to any escalating litigation tactics the other parent may employ to gain an advantage. Unfortunately, the child is almost always negatively impacted by protracted disputes of this kind, and all efforts should be made to avoid this situation if there is any chance of resolving disagreement in more amicable ways. However, there may be impairments pushing one parent to take this approach that the other party is often powerless to stop, and in this case, steps must be taken to seek a custody arrangement that best protects the child, even if this means the impaired parent loses some parental rights. A discussion of the crippling issues that can influence whether a parent forces a custody fight, and how courts will evaluate requests to limit a parent’s rights to see and make decisions for his/her child, will follow below.

Issues Commonly Linked with High Conflict Disputes

Parents suffering from certain impairments that want to secure child custody rights can be more rigid and unwilling to make reasonable compromises. Further, if the impairment is not under control it could impact his/her ability to function as a parent and immediate emergency measures may be required to protect the child. In addition, plans should be put in place to protect the child from potential danger during the divorce process generally and once everything is concluded. If the child needs protection right away, emergency petitions can be filed requesting sole temporary custody until a final determination of the impaired parent’s role can be fully evaluated by the court. Six types of impairment most frequently involved in divorce cases include:

  • substance abuse;
  • alcohol abuse;
  • psychological issues;
  • physical abuse;
  • parental alienation of the child; and
  • child sex abuse.

Gathering sufficient evidence of impairment to support claims for restrictions on a parent is crucial to having a fair chance at getting the court to take action. Sources of evidence that could be persuasive in this situation include:

  • statements from the impaired parent to the other spouse or third party about the existence of a problem;
  • police reports related to an arrest due to the impairment, especially if arrested while with the child; and
  • if feasible, hiring a private investigator to uncover additional information.

Court Evaluation of Unequal Custody Requests

Florida law strongly favors giving parents equal responsibility over a child, and will therefore expect to see strong and convincing evidence a parent is a detriment to a child before considering a different division of responsibilities. If there is any doubt about the veracity or severity of an impairment, the court will err on the side of allowing substantial parenting time for both. However, if enough evidence is produced to convince the court real potential risk exists for the child, the judge can order more intrusive actions to ensure the child’s safety. Measures typically taken to check on the parent’s fitness when it is in doubt include drug testing, ordering the release of health records and psychological testing. Protecting a child in this situation is paramount, and an experienced divorce attorney is needed to effectively present the facts and evidence to the judge so appropriate action is taken.

Contact an Orlando Family Lawyer

Your child’s welfare is your first priority, and if there is any concern about the ability of the other parent to safely and properly care for your child, you need an advocate to fight for your family. Orlando’s Donna Hung Law Group can handle any issue regarding child custody, both during and after divorce, and are available to evaluate your situation and offer legal options. Contact the office at (407) 999-0099 to schedule a consultation.