How Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on March 04, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Courts make custody determinations using a single, seemingly simple standard. That standard is the best interests of the child. As you can likely imagine, living in a violent setting does not meet that standard. Domestic violence definitely affects child custody, and will certainly be considered by a court determining the best place for your child to live.

So whether you're the victim or the perpetrator of domestic violence, understand that protecting the child is the court's priority. If you will not do it, a court might step in.

Best Interests Explored

There are usually two ways a court winds up looking at your children and your custody. The first is if you or your partner is charged with domestic violence criminally. The second is if you are getting divorced. Either way, the court is not eager to have the state take responsibility for your kid through Child Protective Services, so you will not lose custody unless there is evidence that you cannot protect your children.

In worst case scenarios, children are taken away from both parents. But that is a course of last resort and not at all what the state desires. Much more often a court will limit child visitation for a perpetrator of violence, enforce a restraining order, and impose conditions on the time, place, and manner of meeting with a child. Some parents must meet in state-designated locations on specific occasions in order to be supervised.

Best Interests in Divorce

When a court is determining child custody in the context of divorce, they also consider the kid's best interests. Beyond being dangerous physically, the emotional impact of domestic violence is deep and if there is evidence of violence in the home, or if that is the basis for divorce, chances are very good that the abuser will lose a quest for custody.

Young people who grow up in aggressive environments can experience problems developing emotionally, leading to problems relating to others later in life. Whether you are the victim or perpetrator of domestic violence, protecting a child from that violence should be your priority or you risk losing your kid.

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