What is the Keeping Children Safe Act?

A child runs down a driveway toward their father who waits with open arms

In 2003, the Florida Legislature adopted the Keeping Children Safe Act to seek the protection and prevention of any form of abuse on children and exploitation by a parent or caregiver. This act was adopted into statute under 39.0139 and provides guidelines for courts to consider when determining visitation or parenting plans for families where a child may have experienced abuse. If you are in a child custody case where abuse has been alleged or confirmed, ensure you have proper representation for you and your child and discuss with your Orlando Child Custody Attorney the impact of the Keeping Children Safe Act on your case.

In the State of Florida, it is public policy for parents to share parental custody and to enjoy the parental roles equally. However, joint custody will not be awarded if the court finds that such arrangement would be detrimental to the child. Under the Keeping Children Safe Act, there is a rebuttable presumption of detriment when “probable cause exists that a parent or caregiver has sexually abused a child,…been found guilty of or entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to charges of… removing minors from the state or concealing minors…, sexual battery…, lewd and lascivious behavior…, indecent exposure…, incest…, or abuse of children.” Upon finding any forms of this presumed detriment, the court is required to have a hearing before allowing contact or visitation between the guilty party and child.

At the hearing to determine what form or even if contact is appropriate to accomplish the goal of protecting the child, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem for the child and will receive evidence as to the allegations or crimes. The evidence may come in the form of oral testimony of witnesses, doctors, counselors, the Department of Children and Families, reports, and any other evidence the court deems necessary. The standard the guilty party must overcome is clear and convincing evidence that proves “that the safety, well-being, and physical, mental, and emotional health of the child is not endangered by such visitation or other contact” with the parent. If the presumption is rebutted by clear and convincing evidence the court may allow full visitation or restricted visitation in the form of supervised visits. If the court orders supervised visits, they must be supervised by an individual who has received special training regarding children and sexual abuse or by a supervised visitation program that is compliant with the minimum standards prescribed by the Supreme Court.

If your child has experienced any form of abuse, it is important to protect the child from any further harm and encourage a healthy environment for the child’s proper development. This is where the Keeping Children Safe Act is important to implement into your child custody case. This Act is specifically formatted to provide a road map for child custody situations that involve a parent accused or convicted of abuse of a child and specifically aims to protect the child involved. Ensure you and your child are protected by employing an Orlando Child Custody Attorney who knows these laws and skillfully implements them into your case.

Speaking to an attorney at our Orlando office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 407-512-0887 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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