Domestic violence is a growing concern in many states in the country, including California. If you’re experiencing this kind of abuse, you should immediately reach out to an Orange County child custody attorney.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that almost 33% of women and over 27% of men in California experience physical violence, sexual abuse, or stalking perpetrated by their intimate partner.

Children are frequently the unseen victims of these crimes. While not always physically abused, they are often the target of emotional tirades. Couples may stay together long after they should have gone their separate ways, in an attempt to keep the family together. 

Let’s take a look at just what domestic violence is and what you can do to protect your children. 

What Is Domestic Violence? 

When people think of domestic violence, they often see images of a cowering spouse, a bruised eye, and thrown household objects. In reality, this type of violence can be silent and veiled behind deceit and control. 

In California, domestic violence is defined as abuse against an intimate partner. This abuse may be physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional. It includes behaviors such as stalking and harassment and other acts that cause the abused to feel afraid for themselves or someone they care about. 

In many cases, an abuser uses threats, demeaning comments, anger, intimidation, and control of finances as a method to scare the abused into submission. 

As you can see, domestic violence is much more than physical abuse. 

California Law defines intimate partners as: 

  • spouses or ex-spouses
  • a current or former cohabitant
  • a current or former fiancé
  • a family member
  • Even just someone you seriously dated, or are dating. 

How Does Domestic Violence Affect Your Children?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 45-60% of children in homes where domestic violence occurs are also experiencing child abuse. Even when they are not physically abused, they witness the assaults up to 80% of the time. 

Children exposed to repeated domestic violence can experience symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. They may become isolated, have difficulty with social interactions, and experience fear of abandonment.

Sadness, low self-esteem, emotional distancing, and loss of empathy are just a few of the many psychological scars children wear as a result of domestic violence in the home. They are also more prone to bedwetting, learning difficulties, and insomnia. 

Despite these wounds produced from living in an environment of chronic emotional volatility, children are resilient. As with adult victims, through support and counseling, they can heal. The first step is finding a safe environment for them to heal in.

As child custody lawyer Orange County, we can help you find a safe place to heal and take the needed steps to protect you and your children.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, provides a list of resources and information on the effects of domestic violence on children. 

What Can You Do to Protect Your Children and Yourself?

Make sure that you retain all evidence of abuse. This may include phone messages, text messages, emails, and pictures. If you feel you and your children are in immediate danger, seek help immediately. 

This may include calling the local police, friends or family, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, or an Orange County child custody attorney. 

The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence also provides useful information about organizations in your community. 

You do have options to help protect both you and your children. One of these protective measures is a restraining order. A child support lawyer Orange County can help you file the needed paperwork and address any questions you may have about the process.

If the local law enforcement feels that you or your children are in immediate danger, they will apply for an emergency protection order. This goes into effect until, and if, you are able to retain a temporary and then permanent order.

In domestic violence cases, a permanent order remains in effect for five years. 

Depending on the situation, a restraining order can remove your spouse from the home you share together, order them to provide temporary financial support—keep them away from you, your children, and other family members. 

If your spouse fails to adhere to the rules of the restraining order, you can seek criminal charges. Judges also consider this when determining custody of the children and spousal support in divorce hearings.  

How Does Domestic Violence Affect a Child Custody Case?

Evidence of domestic violence should and does, impact a child custody case. Even if the abuse does not occur in front of the child, most states see that this type of behavior can spill over into many parts of an abuser’s life, and the people in it. 

Courts use different methods to protect children from abusive parents. These include ordering supervised visitation, prohibiting overnight visitation, or ordering that all meetings between the children and the perpetrator occur in public places. 

In some cases, a court may award full custody to the other parent. In extreme cases, the court may terminate the abuser’s parental rights.

If your spouse was convicted of felony domestic abuse within five years of your divorce proceedings, they are not entitled to spousal support.  

Orange County Divorce and Family Law Attorney

If you and your children are the victims of domestic abuse, our Orange County child custody attorney can guide and help you with the process of ensuring you and your children’s safety.

As a Board Certified Family Law Specialist and divorce mediator with nearly 20 years of experience, we have worked with countless individuals and families experiencing both emotional and physical trauma.

Our first concern is helping you and your children find a safe place. If a restraining order is needed, we can help you obtain one.

Then, we work together to promote the best interests of the children and find a resolution that leads to a new and rewarding life.

For a complimentary consultation, contact us at the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin today.