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Domestic violence can impact child custody

Parents who are the victims of domestic violence or who have been living with an abusive spouse or partner should be aware that California law gives them some special legal protections.

In family law matters, for instance, a special provision makes it difficult for parents with a track record of abuse to obtain custody of children.

Courts generally won’t award recent offenders custody

In the case of a person who has a conviction for domestic violence or a similar judicial finding against him or her within the previous five years, a court must go forward assuming that the person is not the best parent to have legal or physical custody.

The reach of this law is broad. A conviction or finding of domestic violence will count not only if it involves the other parent or a person’s children but also if it involves the person’s new spouse or partner or even the person’s parents.

In short, a parent’s children do not actually have to have been harmed or even have to have witnessed violence in order for this law to apply.

A parent who is subject to this law is allowed to try to prove that he or she indeed would be the best parent to have custody or that some sort of joint custody is appropriate.

However, he or she will have to demonstrate his or her efforts to reform, as the judge will consider whether the parent has completed treatment, including a year-long domestic violence program. The judge will also consider whether the parent has followed the rules and avoided future violence.

Older cases of domestic violence still warrant consideration

Although not subject to this special law, a court can still consider older documented cases of domestic violence when deciding what custody arrangement is in the best interests of a child.

Likewise, even if there has been no prior conviction or finding, a victim may still present evidence of domestic violence in a child custody case.