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Domestic violence and child custody: A difficult intersection
Some divorces include elements of domestic violence. When this is the case, there is a chance that the domestic violence could impact the child custody aspect of the divorce process if there are children in the picture.
It is imperative that anyone who is dealing with a divorce that involves domestic violence understands how this might impact the case. Here are a few points to consider:
Courts are usually conservative
While the court has great flexibility in what terms are part of a divorce, the intersection of domestic violence and child custody is one area where courts are usually very conservative. The theory behind this is that the court doesn’t want to award an allegedly abusive parent custody and then have something happen to the child in that parent’s hands.
To prevent this, courts will usually err on the side of caution and limit access that the alleged abuser has to the children. In some cases, the court might award only supervised visits to that parent.
Factors that determine the court’s actions
There are several factors that the court considers when trying to decide how to handle child custody in these cases. One of the primary concerns is whether the abuse impacted the child or not. This doesn’t include only if the child was the victim of the abuse. It also includes whether the child witnessed the violence.
Other factors that are considered include whether there is a criminal case against the person and what type of evidence is present to document the violence. The longevity of the abuse and the severity of it are also considered as this can point to a pattern and a likelihood that the actions might occur again.
The child’s behavior toward the parent
Many people think that if a child doesn’t fear the allegedly abusive parent that there isn’t a reason to keep the child from the parent. This isn’t the case. Often, children can forge strong relationships with an abusive parent. The fact that the child isn’t afraid of the parent shouldn’t ever play a part in the court’s decision about whether the parent can have unsupervised contact with the child.
Parents who are in the midst of a divorce stemming from domestic violence must think about the welfare of their children and how the court will view the present circumstances. Whether you are the parent who is accused of abuse or not, learning the options that are open might help you as you plan your case.