Impact of Domestic Violence in California Child Custody Case

The impact of domestic violence in a California child custody case is quite serious.  It is common for domestic violence accusations to arise in California child custody cases. Though most parents have credible claims of domestic violence, some parents fabricate accusations of domestic violence. There are many legal resources available to protect your children from domestic violence. If you have filed for divorce, consider the benefits of obtaining a restraining order against the abusive parent before filing for a temporary custody order.  Read on to learn more about the impact of domestic violence in California child custody cases.

Domestic Violence Overview

Domestic violence can take many forms. It can be emotional, mental and/or physical. Domestic violence includes harassing, stalking, physical assault, sexual assault, or making people feel reasonably afraid that they are in immediate bodily danger or harm. Domestic violence can occur between current and former spouses, people who reside together, people who are blood relatives, people who are dating or engaged, and children. If you are the victim of domestic violence, go to court to obtain a restraining order.

Impact of Domestic Violence in a California Child Custody Case

Parents may share joint legal and physical custody of their children. The court may also grant sole custody to a parent if the other parent is determined to be unfit. Legal custody allows parents to make decisions regarding their child’s life. This includes where the child will go to school, which religion he/she will practice, and the type of medical care he/she should undergo. Physical custody refers to where the child resides.

When deciding child custody, the judge will consider the health, safety and welfare of the child. Domestic abuse will be taken into consideration by the judge when determining legal and physical custody. The court will review evidence such as reports from law enforcement, records from child protective services, medical records, and reports from public agencies when deciding whether domestic violence or abuse has occurred. The judge will treat a case as a domestic violence case if in the last five years a parent was convicted of domestic violence against the other parent or a court has decided the parent committed domestic violence against the other parent or child. 

If the court finds domestic violence has occurred against the other parent or child within the past 5 years, the judge must apply a rebuttable presumption that the other parent should not have sole or joint custody. The court will examine the following factors to determine whether the alleged abusive parent can overcome the rebuttable presumption:

  • Whether the perpetrator proves that it is in the child’s best interest for him/her to have custody
  • Whether the perpetrator has successfully completed batterer’s treatment, alcohol and chemical dependency programming, and parenting classes
  • whether the perpetrator is on probation or parole and, if so, whether the perpetrator has complied with all the requirements
  • whether the perpetrator is restrained by any protective orders and, if so, whether the perpetrator has complied with them, and
  • whether the perpetrator has committed any further acts of domestic violence.

If the court concludes that visitation will not be in the child’s best interest, the court can order supervised visits. This means a third party must supervise the visits between the child and the abusive parent. 

Court orders are not permanent. If the abusive parent completes court ordered classes (anger management, counseling, etc), the child custody order can be modified. Contact us for more information about obtaining a child custody order. We can provide you with legal advice and representation on how to best obtain a child custody order. During the consultation, our family law attorney will discuss in confidence the impact of domestic violence in a California child custody case.

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About the Author:

Kymeshia Morris Esq., founder of San Diego Esquire has practiced law in California since 2012. During her career as a lawyer, she has co-authored legal publications and self-help articles. Kymeshia is dedicated to providing affordable legal services to California businesses and individuals.

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