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Child Custody: What Happens When Domestic Violence is Discovered?

We would all like to think that domestic violence isn’t as widespread as it seems in the media, but it is out there and it does affect the children. The question is, “Does domestic violence have any impact on child custody cases?” Domestic violence makes the decision about child custody a more complex one.

Why it’s Complex

The hard part is realizing that more often than not, cases of domestic violence can blindside a case because they come up unexpectedly.

The Process

What happens then? The attorney has to deal with restraining orders, temporary orders of protection, or for the children to prevent them from being in the middle of the abuse during the process.

Court Findings

In cases where domestic violence is proven, the Family Court will not approve joint custody, sole custody, or even unsupervised visits in most cases for the accused abuser. The time they get to spend with their children can be limited or even revoked depending on the severity of the situation since the court’s first priority is what is in the best interest of the child.

If it is discovered that a parent who is seeking custody has committed domestic violence against 1) the other parent, 2) the child, and/or 3) the siblings, within the past five years, the court presumes the parent who committed the abuse should not have sole, joint, or physical custody of the child.

The court’s presumption cannot replace the best interests of the child in Family Court. It does however, force the abusive parent to carry a larger burden to show they have the best interests of the child in order to obtain shared or physical custody of any kind.

What Family Law Judges Consider

  • First and foremost they consider the best interest of the child. Is it in their best interest to give that parent sole or joint custody?
  • Has the parent successfully completed an approved, appropriate treatment program?
  • Where drugs or alcohol are involved, they consider whether or not the parent has successfully completed a rehabilitation program to address their issues.
  • Has the parent completed the Family Court parenting class?
  • Has the parent ever been on probation or been paroled and has he or she been compliant to the terms of probation and parole?
  • Has the parent complied with any restraining orders and terms issued in the process of the divorce?
  • Has there been recent incidences of domestic violence or signs of abuse?

There is no way for the average person to be able to determine the outcome when domestic violence is addressed in child custody cases either before, during, or after a divorce is final.

If you are in such a situation, consult with a Riverside divorce attorney as soon as possible. Get to know your rights and responsibilities and take the advice of an experienced lawyer who is on your side. The initial consultation is free, so you risk nothing by asking some questions.

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