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The Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody

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When domestic violence is a factor in child custody cases, the courts take the matters very seriously. Evidence must be presented to prove that abuse has occurred and that certain custody arrangements would not be in the child’s best interests. The abusive parent will be denied physical or legal custody. Still, they might be able to have visitation. And in cases where mitigating circumstances are present, there is a chance the abusive parent can get some type of custody.

If your child custody case involves allegations of domestic violence, speak with one of our Los Angeles lawyers at Claery & Hammond, LLP to discuss your legal options. Call (310) 817-6904 or submit an online contact form today.

An Overview of California’s Child Custody Laws

In California, two types of child custody may be awarded: legal and physical. Legal deals with the parents’ decision-making rights. Physical considers which parent will provide primary residence for the child.

California’s custody laws are designed to ensure the health and welfare of the child. Courts decide custody arrangements based on the child’s best interests.

Legal and physical custody can be awarded as joint (shared by both parents) or sole (granted to only one parent). Generally, the law presumes that joint legal and physical custody is in the child’s best interest. However, in certain situations, the judge might decide that only one parent should have custody.

When making their determination, a judge will consider many factors, including the following:

  • The child’s age and health,
  • The nature of contact between both parents and the child,
  • Potential substance abuse issues,
  • The parents’ ability to care for the child, and
  • Any history of domestic violence.

California’s Definition of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is defined as any mistreatment or abuse towards a family or household member, including partners, spouses, and even children.

Although domestic violence is usually associated with physical or sexual aggression, it can take other forms, such as psychological or financial. The actor need not have actually made contact or committed other harm against the family or household member. Attempts or threats may also be considered acts of domestic violence.

The Impact of Domestic Violence on a Parent’s Ability to Obtain Custody

Domestic violence can significantly impact the victim and children, even if the abuse is not directed toward the child. California courts are committed to ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of children in an environment where abuse has occurred.

When hearing a custody case and allegations of domestic violence are made, the judge will first determine whether the claims are founded. If the evidence proves that abuse or harm exists, the judge cannot grant sole or joint physical or legal custody to the abusive parent.

Although the court might not allow the abusive parent to have custody, they might still recognize the individual’s visitation rights. The parent may be allowed to see their children with conditions. For example, a third party may need to monitor visits.

However, if the judge feels that it’s not in the child’s best interests to have contact with the abusive parent, they might deny visitation altogether.

Evidence That May Be Used to Support a Claim of Domestic Violence

When trying to prove a claim of domestic violence in a child custody case, it is important to provide the court with several pieces of evidence to support the allegations.

This evidence may include things like the following:

  • Police reports
  • Child Protective Services records
  • Court orders (e.g., domestic violence restraining orders)
  • Medical records

In these situations, experts may be called in to testify and advise the court on the impacts of domestic violence and the likelihood of its recurrence.

Ways the Impact of Domestic Violence May Be Mitigated

In some cases, even though there might have been domestic violence, the court may still grant some type of custody to the abusive parent. The abusive parent would have to present mitigating evidence to demonstrate that giving them custody would not be detrimental to the child’s well-being.

The abusive parent could show that they:

  • Have completed a batterer’s intervention program and parenting classes
  • Are not currently on probation, and if they were previously, they complied with all conditions
  • Are not under a restraining order
  • Have not committed any other acts of domestic violence

How an Attorney Can Help

Navigating a child custody case involving domestic violence can be challenging. Thankfully, a family law lawyer can provide much-needed guidance. An experienced attorney will help you understand your rights, as well as those of the abusive parent. They can also compile evidence, build arguments, and present your case to the court.

If you need assistance through your case in Los Angeles, please contact Claery & Hammond, LLP at (310) 817-6904 today.

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