Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on December 29, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Families are very complicated, especially today. Parents may find themselves raising a partner's children but separated from their own kids based on child custody arrangements. And some parents may learn that their children are being raised in an unsafe setting.

If you discover that your kids are living in a violent or otherwise dangerous home, and you want to change the custody arrangements, you can petition the courts. But be warned that claiming domestic violence is taking place is a very serious charge and impacts many lives. Only do it if it's in the best interests of the child.

The Best Interests Standard

Child custody determinations are made according to a single standard: the best interests of the child. When there is violence or abuse at home, and there are two homes to place the child in, domestic violence will certainly impact custody.

A setting in which one parent is abusing or is abused is one in which the child's mental or physical health is also compromised. Parents have an obligation to protect themselves in order to create a safe space for their children, so it's not just abusive parents who lose kids. Victims of domestic violence also risk losing child custody when they remain in an abusive setting.

Victims of Abuse

If you are the victim of abuse and are raising children in a dangerous home, seek help. Take steps to protect yourself and your kids by finding a therapist or support group, and moving out. If you do nothing and custody is challenged, it will be difficult for a judge to let your children remain in a dangerous setting.

Talk to a Lawyer

Whichever side of the equation you are on, talk to a lawyer about a child custody challenge and accusations of abuse. Counsel can help you to mount a challenge or a defense -- abuse claims can trigger cases beyond the custody arrangement, and it can be a harrowing experience for your family. But remember, in the end, it will come down to what is best for the kids, and where they are safe.

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