How Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody?

We take domestic violence seriously, so do the courts in regards to custody

February 11, 2021

There’s no lack of seriousness when it comes to domestic violence. If you’ve experienced or fear violence in your household and marriage, make sure to consult with an Orange County domestic violence lawyer right away.

Courts take allegations of domestic abuse very seriously during a divorce and when considering custody arrangements. They tend to be conservative when it comes to giving custody or granting visitations to a parent who has been accused of abuse.

That’s why you need a professional Orange County divorce attorney if you’ve been a victim of domestic violence.

What Is Domestic Violence

In California, domestic violence is defined by the following:

  • An intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily harm
  • A sexual assault
  • An act that causes others to feel afraid that they or someone else is in danger
  • Are behaviors that courts might use to issue a domestic protective order such as harassment, stalking behavior, unwanted telephone calls, and physical assault.

Contrary to belief, domestic violence doesn’t only occur between a married couple. It takes all kinds of shapes and forms and includes a variety of people:

  • Current or former spouses
  • Engaged couples
  • Those who are related by blood or marriage
  • People who live together or used to live together
  • People who have children together
  • People who are dating or used to date
  • Children

Unfortunately, many victims of domestic violence don’t necessarily recognize that they’ve been abused. They write off the abuser’s behavior or even blame themselves for the violence.

How Domestic Violence Impacts Child Custody

Orange County courts always consider what is in the best interest of children during a divorce. Judges want to ensure the safety, health, and welfare of children, so domestic violence can have a direct impact on the court’s decisions.

This isn’t just something judges care about—California mandates that courts consider situations of abuse when determining custody.

There are several kinds of custody in the state of California. Of the two categories, sole and joint custody are the most straightforward. When a parent has sole custody, they are alone in their rights and duties. Joint custody is when parenting is shared on some scale.

You also have to consider the difference between physical and legal custody. The latter involves making important decisions regarding things like religion and minor medical procedures on behalf of the child, while the former talks about where a child spends most of their time, such as where they live.

Courts have a variety of options when it comes to determining custody. Both legal and physical custody can be either sole or shared, and these options can be mixed and matched. That means parents could share legal custody, but only one person has physical custody.

Judges have to consider allegations of abuse in a divorce and custody case. There are some obligations to corroborate the accusations. Essentially, the person who alleges abuse has to provide some evidence of domestic violence.

While a judge takes all accusations seriously, they need additional support. Evidence can include things like police reports, child protective services records, medical records, etc.

If the court finds that one parent is guilty of some kind of domestic violence in the home within the last five years, they now need evidence to support that the abusive parent is worthy of some kind of custody.

There are several factors that courts look at to determine if the abusive parent can overcome their accusations:

  • If the perpetrator provides strong evidence that the child is best served with joint custody
  • If the perpetrator has completed parenting classes, batterer’s treatment, and alcohol and chemical dependency treatment
  • If the perpetrator is on probation or parole and is following their requirements
  • If the perpetrator is limited by protective orders
  • If the perpetrator has other acts of domestic violence

While the court doesn’t necessarily want to deny custody to either parent, judges have to consider what is best for the children. If the perpetrator of violence can’t provide strong evidence to the contrary, a judge may decide that the abuser is unable to share or have custody.

What About Visitation?

In any situation where one parent has sole physical custody, courts try to grant reasonable visitation rights. Visitation can also take many shapes and forms. For example, in some cases, a social worker must be present for any visits.

However, in other situations, the non-custodial parent – who is the person with whom the child doesn’t live with –  is allowed to take the child out of town or even overnight.

Courts ultimately want both parents to be able to spend time with the children with the belief that it is best for everyone to allow all parties to continue a relationship with the kids. At the same time, courts have to determine if there is any risk in allowing visitation.

Judges may decide to grant visitation with certain conditions, like supervision by another adult or social worker, limiting where and how long visits can take place, banning overnight stays, or denying visitation completely.

If at any time the court feels that the child is in danger of violence or abuse, it can step in to make the appropriate modifications to protect the child. In extreme cases, parents have their parental rights completely terminated. In these extreme situations, parents lose their rights forever.

Help Is Closer Than You Think

Many victims of domestic violence are hesitant to leave the relationship. This could be from denying that abuse is actually happening or out of fear. In these cases, involving an Orange County domestic violence lawyer is critical.

When domestic violence rears its ugly head, the victims need a plan to leave the situation. In serious moments, the victim should call the police for help. In other situations, they should meet with an Orange County divorce attorney to understand their rights and options.

At the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin, we work towards the best interest of the children but also want to help you get a fair shake in the trial.

If you’re at risk of further violence, we can help you create a plan to get to safety and to protect your children. On the same note, if you’ve been accused of domestic violence, we can help you create a defense aimed towards keeping your children in your life.

Divorce can be messy, so don’t deal with it alone. Contact our team at the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin today.

Call today to speak with Hollie A. Lemkin to discuss your questions & issues!


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