Domestic violence is a grave issue, and it can severely impact matters of child custody. When the courts have to decide on matters of child custody, the law requires them to make their decisions based on what is in the child’s best interest. If a parent is committing acts of domestic violence, it cannot be very healthy for a child to be around them.
We’re going to take a deeper dive into this topic today. We’ll first start by looking at what constitutes domestic abuse since it is a more broadly defined crime than many think. Then we’ll look at how child custody is affected by domestic violence. Finally, we’ll examine whether you can lose parent rights by committing domestic violence.
Suppose you have been a victim of domestic violence, or you are looking for help protecting a child from a domestic abuser. In that case, you should contact an experienced domestic violence attorney today.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence?
Some people have a simplified definition of domestic violence. It is a mistake to believe domestic violence is only spousal or child abuse. Both of these do constitute domestic violence, but the crime is more broadly defined than this.
Domestic violence, as Arizona defines it, includes:
- Sexually assaulting or attempting to assault a family or household member sexually
- Causing serious injury to or attempting to cause serious injury to a family or household member
- Making family or household members fear for their safety
- Engaging in patterns of abusive behavior
- Punching a wall in your home
- Intentionally breaking items in your hmw out of anger
An important point to that list is that domestic violence does not need to involve an actual injury or even a violent action. A person can be found to be guilty of domestic violence for threats of physical violence.
It is also important to note that it mentions household members. This is because domestic violence can be committed against:
- A spouse
- A former spouse
- The person you’re living with
- A person you used to live with
- Somebody you have a child with
- Anybody related by blood or by marriage
- Your children
Whether or not violence is considered domestic when it comes to ex-partners requires weighing the length of the relationship, when it ended, and how much time it has been.
How is Child Custody Affected by Domestic Violence?
The goal of our legal system is to protect children from harm. When it comes to child custody, a judge must make a decision based on what is in the best interest of the child in question. They do this by looking at many different factors, from the parent’s jobs to their relationship with the child, their home life, and more. But, central to our current discussion, one of those factors they look at is whether or not either parent committed acts of domestic violence or whether it is likely that they have.
The courts make their decision about whether domestic violence occurred by looking at a lot of information. Of course, if there is a court ruling about domestic violence, it is pretty easy to say it happened. But other evidence that may be examined includes police reports, medical reports, school records, witness testimony, child protective services reports, domestic violence shelter reports, and anything that might point towards domestic violence.
If the court finds that one of the parents committed significant domestic violence or there is a pattern of domestic violence, they are required to apply a rebuttable presumption that it is against the child’s best interests for that parent to have sole or joint legal decision-making (custody) of the child.
A rebuttable presumption is a kind of legal assumption. If you have one against you, it needs to be overcome if you’re to have a shot at getting custody. It can be overcome by a few means:
- Successfully completing a batterer’s prevention program
- Proving that it is in the child’s best interest to be with you
- Completing a drug or alcohol abuse program
- Completing parenting classes, as ordered by the court
Of course, there are additional factors that could make the situation worse, too. For example, if domestic violence is found to have occurred while the individual was on parole or probation, or if they committed other acts of domestic violence, it will be pretty hard to overcome the rebuttable presumption.
Does a Domestic Violence Charge Affect Visitation or Parental Rights?
If one parent is guilty of significant domestic violence, the court may not want to award that parent any parenting time, unsupervised. To be granted parenting time, the domestic abuser must prove that spending time with the child will not endanger the child, nor will it harm their emotional or mental development.
There can be a variety of different stipulations placed on parenting time. It may be required that parenting time for the abusive parent is supervised. Other potential stipulations include banning overnight visits, keeping the child’s home address private, or forcing the abusive parent to pay a bond to ensure they return the child.
In cases where domestic violence is part of a repetitive cycle of behavior or where the physical injuries are extreme, the courts may deem it necessary to terminate the abusive parent’s parental rights.
Can an Attorney Help Me Protect My Child?
If you have been the victim of domestic violence, or are in a custody battle with someone who has engaged in domestic violence, then an attorney is a good place to turn. Protecting your children from harm is vitally important, and the legal system is on your side in this matter. An attorney can help you through the necessary steps to ensure your child is protected from domestic violence. If you or your child is still in danger, an attorney can help you to use the legal system to get a temporary protective order. Don’t wait until it is too late; reach out for assistance today.