Abandonment, Abuse, and Support in Dissolution of Marriages with Children

An image of a Justice statue with law books in the background

This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. In this guide, we will address the most common questions and concerns related to alimony in Florida, helping you navigate the complex terrain of this important aspect of divorce law.

Dissolution of marriages with children are often complex and emotionally charged. There are several factors to consider, such as property division, time-sharing, and child support. It can significantly impact children, especially when it involves abandonment or abuse (physical or emotional).

Property division and child issues are two common issues that arise during a divorce, with both parties often battling over the division of assets and parental responsibilities and time-sharing. Unfortunately, child abuse is also a potential risk factor in such cases, with several types of abuse that can occur (emotional, physical, mental, and financial).

Table of Contents


I have heard time and time again that clients (or their spouses) refuse to leave the marital home because they do not want to be accused of abandonment; either of the real property or the children. Rest assured, none of the Judges think it is a good idea to reside with your spouse while going through the stressful divorce process.


The more important issue is leaving the marital home when children are involved. If you leave, you will not be considered to have abandoned your children. You can move out and maintain relationships and frequent contact with your children. Is this always easy? No.

Sometimes people going through a break-up make poor decisions and think keeping a parent away from the children is okay. The court will assist you, with the help of your attorney, to have contact with your children. You will not be penalized for moving out. That will not, in itself be a factor against you having a reasonable time-sharing (visitation) schedule with your children. There are factors that the court will consider in determining a reasonable time-sharing plan and moving out of the house is NOT a factor listed in the statute.

Man with suitcase leaving


Abandonment of property during a divorce (or dissolution) is not a legal allegation. If you leave the home, stay in it, have your name on the mortgage or promissory note, or have your name on the title, or not, if it is purchased during the marriage, it IS marital (more often than not).

Suppose you move out of the house to have a place of your own during a divorce. In that case, the property is still part of the marital estate. It will be part of the equitable distribution required for the Final Judgment. If you move out and you were the person who primarily paid for the house, you still need to pay. It is still a marital asset that you need to maintain. You can leave and you will not lose your rights to that property.

Do not risk your mental or physical health by staying in the marital home with your spouse to preserve your rights to that property. It is simply just not necessary. You will not get more or less because you leave to try to salvage your sanity.

4 Major Types of Child Abuse

Individuals going through a dissolution are usually in the worst time of their lives due to stress factors, the unknown, and emotional trauma. This can cause poor decision making. Unfortunately, some people make false allegations of abuse against the other parent and do not realize the negative effect this can have on the children.

Potentially, the implication could lead to loss of employment for the accused. Some cases truly involve abuse against the spouse/parent or the children. It is crucial to be able to recognize this abuse and to be able to prove it in court to obtain the relief needed for the victim. This is in addition to any Dependency or Criminal case (that has different burdens of proof).
Collecting evidence and documenting incidents are second to PROTECTING YOUR CHILD. Do not put them in a known abusive situation for any reason. You need to seek legal counsel to ensure you and your child are protected legally. Hire an attorney with experience with abuse cases, and act quickly to protect your child.

There are four major types of child abuse – Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, and Sexual Abuse. To prove abuse in court, you need to document anything that you find to be suspicious. By “document,” I mean keeping a journal, taking photos, and reporting allegations to your child’s pediatrician. This documentation can help ensure your evidence is something that will be admissible and relevant to your court case to help you protect your child.

Emotional Abuse

This is the most common type of child abuse, and it is challenging to prove. Emotional abuse can be defined as rejection from a parent, abandonment, verbal assaults, and aggressive parenting styles. It is especially difficult since, in most circuits in Florida, the Judges do not permit the children to testify in a dissolution/paternity action against their parents.


Neglect is sort of an all-encompassing “verb” for child abuse. It refers to a range of conditions in which a parent or caregiver fails to adequately provide for a child’s needs – including attention, love, food, and proper health care to name a few. It is action, lack of action, or even screaming constantly, resulting in hurting a child’s self-esteem. You can neglect to feed your child, not provide medical care, or just neglect to supervise them properly. Neglect is a huge area in the dependency arena.

Physical Abuse

This would be the easiest form of abuse to prove because it is visual – including bruising, broken bones, and loss of weight, to name a few. In Florida, corporal punishment is not considered physical abuse. However, there is certainly a fine line. Teachers, school administrators, and physicians usually recognize physical abuse easily and act to protect their student or patient.
Child pouting while his dad plays on his phon in the background - Neglect

Sexual Abuse

If a child or another adult engages in any sexual act with a child or exposes the minor to unsuitable sexual material or behavior, that is considered sexual abuse. Consent by a child is not a defense. They are not old enough to consent. This means an “act” does not have to be performed on a child or demanded that a child perform on an adult or another child. Making a child watch sexual activity between adults or viewing pornography is sexual abuse in most states.

Child Support

Failing To Pay Child Support

First and foremost, you cannot unilaterally lower your child support payments to your co-parent. If you fail to pay the court-ordered child support, the court may find you in contempt. The court could suspend your driver’s license or take any other actions necessary, including incarceration.

Modifying Child Support

It is important to understand the child support amount you owe. It will continue to accrue at the ordered amount unless the court issues an order to modify the obligation or the parties have a written agreement to reduce or terminate the obligation. The support must increase or decrease by at least $50.00 or 15%, whichever is greater, to qualify, per the statute. That change is considered a substantial material change

To modify your child support obligation, you must file a Petition for Modification To qualify for a modification, you must prove a substantial and material change in circumstances. You must also file an updated Financial Affidavit detailing your income and expenses with your Petition, just like an original dissolution (with children) or paternity action.

reviewing legal documents

Determining Ability To Pay

The court can only retroactively reduce your child support obligation to the date of filing of your Modification Petition. Therefore, it is very important to be proactive if you are experiencing financial hardship. In determining the amount you will pay for child support, the court takes into consideration your income, medical and day care costs, and time-sharing.

Preserve your rights

For more information on your legal rights and how to preserve your rights when going through a divorce or a paternity action or how to protect yourself and your child while proving your case in court, contact the law office of Schwam-Wilcox & Associates. Our experienced attorneys can assist you with navigating through a situation that can leave you emotionally drained and full of questions.


Blog Categories