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Domestic Violence in Child Custody Cases

Domestic Violence in Child Custody Cases

In family law, there is nothing more distressing or more dangerous than domestic violence (DV). Though this happens in a relatively small number of cases, when it does, it can be devastating. Families that experience domestic violence may not fully know its effects for years to come. Some have even likened its effects to those of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).

“Keep in mind, if you are the victim of domestic violence, your children are victims too.”

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a form of control exerted over a partner in an intimate relationship, through the use of force or coercion. It is not just physical violence, as most people believe. It can be financial: withholding money for everyday needs such as food, clothing or toiletries. In some relationships, one of the partners controls the bank accounts, and if that partner denies access for the purpose of
control, it may be considered domestic violence. A family lawyer experienced in the nuances of domestic violence can advise you on this.

Gong through a divorce with domestic violence in the marriage

If you are going through a divorce and are the victim of DV., there are other repercussions that can affect your situation. For example, if there are minor children living in the home that have witnessed the domestic violence, they may be affected also. If they reported the DV to a teacher or guidance counselor, those people are mandated reporters who are required, by law, to report any incidents of child abuse or neglect to the authorities. Not reporting DV, or not taking appropriate steps to remedy it, may be considered child neglect. This could initiate a CPS investigation.

If CPS Gets Involved, You Have A Whole New Headache

If CPS starts an investigation into claims of domestic violence occurring in your household with a child present, you may wind up in court facing those issues as well as the ones of your divorce. Depending on the argument your attorney puts forth, a family court judge may either side with or against you. If you are found to be neglectful of your child, this could severely impact any chance you have of getting custody of your children. It’s possible that if a judge finds both parents incapable of properly caring for the child, that child could be placed in foster care.
Family court can be very unpredictable and treacherous. You can get free representation by a court-appointed attorney, but if you can afford it, you should hire a private attorney who will put your interests first

There are steps your attorney can take to minimize the damage

If your attorney is made aware of any DV going on in the home, they can advise you as to steps to take to avoid adverse decisions later by a judge. Your attorney may advise you to go to the police and file a report, if you already haven’t. They may petition the court for a restraining order, also known as an order of protection.
If Child Protective Services has started an investigation into your case, your attorney can give you priceless advice on how to proceed with that also. In any case, if you are in the above-mentioned situation, consult with an attorney sooner, rather than later. It can save you time, money and heartache.

Psychological effects of domestic violence on child witnesses

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Domestic Violence can have severe and long- lasting effects on a child. It can affect their behavior, their concentration and their performance in school. The courts are well aware of this, and so is Child Protective Services. Any CPS investigation will no doubt include interviews with teachers and guidance counselors. No stone will be left unturned, so if you want child custody, you’d better have your ducks in order!

What happens when you report domestic violence to the police?

If your abuser has physically beaten you, and you call the police, they will most likely arrest them right on the spot. You will need to show the officers at the scene some sort of proof that the incident occurred, which could be a mark such as a black eye or bruise. It could be a witness who can corroborate your story. They may interview your abuser and get what they need from them to affect the arrest. The abuser will subsequently appear in front of a judge and most likely a restraining order will be issued, barring the accused from returning to the residence, at least until the matter is resolved in court.

If your partner or spouse gets arrested for domestic violence, you should be the one on the phone with a lawyer, discussing your options.”

A Family Court Judge May Order Counseling for All Parties Involved

One of the things the courts like to do is to order mental health counseling for all parties involved in domestic violence. This has a two -pronged effect; it can help to resolve issues that caused the DV, lending to a positive resolution in court, and it can also show the court how dedicated you are to fixing the problem. If the court orders you to attend mental health counseling, and you refuse to go, or just ignore the order, the court will not look favorably on this. Any lawyer worth their salt will tell you to follow ALL court orders -to a “T”.

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Domestic Violence Does Not Necessarily Preclude Parental Visitation

Depending on the severity of the violence, the frequency and the criminal court resolution of the matter, a judge may order supervised visitation with the accused parent. Supervised visitation can occur at a CPS facility, or it can be ordered to occur at the home of someone the court deems responsible enough to handle the visit. Your attorney can argue against any visitation, but unless the violence was
so severe that the court deems it unsafe for the child, the court will usually allow it.

The Bottom Line: Domestic Violence Has A Profound Affect On A Child Custody Proceeding

The Take-Aways:

  • Call 911 immediately if you have been assaulted by an intimate partner.
  • Call a Family Lawyer ASAP to discuss your rights.
  • Your children come first!