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Domestic Violence in Child Custody Cases

The Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody Cases

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At least three million children witness acts of domestic violence, annually. In fact, domestic violence has become a huge epidemic in American society. Domestic violence in relationships is often the catalyst for one spouse to file for a divorce or to leave a relationship. If there are children involved, an issue of child custody arises. A court must determine which parent will have custody of the children: an accused, a victim of domestic violence, or both. Ultimately, the court will always consider the "best interest of the child" regarding incidents of domestic violence in child custody cases.

Evidence of domestic violence is often considered in child custody determinations. The court may deny custody to a parent who has been accused of domestic violence, if it determines that the parent poses a danger to the child or the child's other parent, the victim.

Domestic Violence and Child Custody Factors to Be Considered in Court

  • Whether or not the domestic violence had an effect on, or was directed at, the child

  • Whether the accused poses a danger to a child or parent

  • The severity and frequency of the domestic violence (which is a good indicator of future behavior)

  • Whether there's a pending criminal case

  • Physical evidence of abuse

The Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody and Visitation

  • The court may order no visitation

  • Visitation may be supervised

  • It may be some time before a court orders overnight visits

  • If an abusive parent is granted custody, there's a concern that the parent might become abusive in another relationship and subject the child to further abuse.

Court-Ordered Remedies

  • Domestic violence counseling

  • An order of protection

Battered Immigrant Remedies

Some victims of domestic violence, who fear their abuser, may be reluctant to leave an abusive relationship, especially if the victim is an immigrant. Often an abuser may threaten a victim with calling the United States Customs Enforcement officials, if the victim reports the abuse. If an immigrant is abused, they should immediately leave the situation and alert the authorities. There is a good chance the immigrant can remain in the country under a special visa category, without fear of being sent back to his/her home country.

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