By: Robert Botnick
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How A Domestic Violence Case Impacts Your Child Custody Case
A child custody case involving domestic violence is one of the most difficult times in a parent’s life whether you’re the accused and facing charges or someone fighting for custody. Domestic violence will influence a child custody case and raise significant questions, too.
The impact that the case has on parenting plans will depend on multiple factors and the discretion of the judge.
Domestic Violence Child Custody Case Impact
Children witness domestic violence too often, at a rate of 33% for women and 10% for men over the age of 18. Every year over 15 million children are witnesses to this abuse. The abuse that occurs often leads to two things:
- Filing for divorce
- Child custody issues
The court will try and determine what the “best interests” of the child may be. If it’s possible, the court almost always finds that a child’s best interest is to have both of the parents play a role in parenting.
Domestic violence may sway the court’s decision because it’s important that the child also be in a safe environment.
Domestic Violence Can Lead to Lost Custody
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges found that domestic violence, whether it be a past accusation or a current ongoing case, plays a regular role in determining child custody cases.
It’s up to the court to weigh the possibility of whether the accused is a threat to their:
- Child’s other parent
What’s important to note is that the judge cannot take a parent’s word on abuse. For example, a parent can’t walk into a child custody case, claim that they’re a victim of abuse, and automatically be granted custody of the child.
Instead, there needs to be proof of abuse if the judge is to consider it in your child custody case.
Abuse isn’t a single determining factor. The court will look at multiple factors when deciding whether or not domestic violence should keep a parent from having custody of a child. Among the many factors that will be considered are:
- Were the actions directed at the child or had an effect on the child? If the child was witness to the abuse and suffered trauma as a result, it’s possible that this will have a significant impact on the case.
- Does the parent accused of violence pose a risk to the other parent or child? If yes, the court is very unlikely to allow any form of custody to the accused.
- How often and how severe was the abuse? If the abuse was frequent and led to significant injuries, this, too, will lower the chances of winning a custody case.
Evidence of abuse, such as photographs and police reports, can strengthen the claim of the victim. If a criminal case is still ongoing against the accused, the court may wait until the case is finished to determine custody.
“Domestic violence can also strain the people who witness, intervene, or simply recognize the tragic realities of relationship abuse. It can be painful and draining — physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially — to watch the people in our lives abuse or be abused,” explains The Hotline.
Ramifications Beyond Custody
Custody isn’t the only thing that domestic violence can impact. The domestic violence case will also have a bearing on the visitation rights of the accused. The accused parent may find that domestic violence leads to the court:
- Revoking visitation. The rights of visitation may be revoked temporarily, or in extreme cases of abuse, loss of rights may be long-term.
- Supervised visits. If the court deems that visitation is still in the child’s best interests, they may decide to allow for supervised visits. This means that every time the spouse accused of domestic violence sees the child, a third party will have to be present.
- Changes to visitation. If you already have visitation rights, they can be revoked or altered. It’s not uncommon for a judge to still allow visitation but not overnight visits.
The judge may also decide that the best course of action is to send the parent to anger management or parenting classes. Counseling may be required, too. In the most serious of cases, the judge may issue a restraining order against you to prevent you from seeing the child.
Judges must consider the best interest of a child, and unless the parent poses a risk to the child’s health and safety, it’s likely that some form of custody or visitation will be allowed.
If you are facing domestic violence charges, and particularly if you think these charges might impact your custody of your child, it’s important to work with a criminal defense attorney that will fight for your rights.
Reach out today to schedule a free consultation.