When there is a judgment on custody and child visitation rights, the judge needs to look at many different factors to come up with a solution that is in the best interests of the child. In most cases, a child should have a relationship with both parents. When there is domestic violence, however, that can change this general guideline. If you have been in a relationship with domestic violence, you might wonder how domestic violence influences child visitation. Read on to find out what the considerations are when determining what’s in the best interests of the child.
Proof of Domestic Violence Influences Child Visitation Rights
Unfortunately, sometimes a parent will say that their ex is or was abusive when they were not. During breakups and divorces, emotions run high and people are sometimes tempted to do things that are not of their normal character. On the other hand, most abusers do not volunteer or confirm the information that they have abused a household member. Domestic violence influences child visitation rights, so an abusive spouse isn’t likely to admit to such issues. How can the judge know what is the truth?
One way is to look at documentation kept by a child’s daycare center, doctor, or school. Whether the domestic violence was between adult partners or committed by an adult on a child, there might be a record of physical injuries or mental repercussions. A spouse who was abused by his or her ex might also have doctor’s reports or photographs to submit to the court. There might be witnesses who have witnessed abuse, too. Domestic violence influences child visitation, but it is important to document any cases of abuse as evidence for the court.
Is the Child in Danger?
If someone has a history of domestic abuse, then the child might be in danger. Even if the abuse was between adult partners and not toward the child, the child could have emotional repercussions. It can be hard to bond to a parent who is physically or mentally abusing the other parent. It’s also important to remember that abuse toward one person can easily lead to abuse toward another person. An individual who abuses his or her spouse might also abuse their child, given the right circumstances and judges take this into account when determining how domestic violence influences child visitation.
Sometimes an abusive parent might think that because the child is not afraid of him or her, there is no problem. Judges are aware of Stockholm Syndrome, however, and they know that sometimes children are unable to see their parents/abusers as scary or dangerous. So a child who is loving toward their parent is not necessarily in a safe situation, and judges who handle custody cases know this and taking it into account when determining how the presence of domestic violence influences child visitation.
Should Unsupervised Visitation Be Granted?
If there’s a chance that the child will not be safe with a parent who has been accused of domestic violence, that parent might be granted supervised visitation only. The other parent might have sole legal custody or they might share legal custody. A parent with a history of abuse who is awarded only supervised visitation, however, will not have shared physical custody. The visitation is supervised by a neutral third party, such as a social worker or a counselor. It can take place in the parent’s home or somewhere like a daycare center or a visitation center. The requirement that visitation is supervised might be temporary or permanent.
If the domestic violence occurred between the parents, then even in the case of unsupervised visitation, the way that the child is transferred from one parent to another might be spelled out by the judge. Usually, it will have to take place in a public location; sometimes it will be a specific location, such as at a police station.
Is the Non-Abusive Parent Fit to Have Custody?
In rare cases and in certain states, the court might find that it’s better for the child to be in the custody of a previously abusive parent than with the non-abusive parent. If the non-abusive parent is struggling with a mental illness, even one caused by the abuse itself, they might not present well in court. Also, spouses who have been abused often lack the financial means to get good counsel or even to hire family law assistance to help them represent themselves. It’s important for these parents to look for help in situations where domestic violence influences child visitation.
Is Rehabilitation Possible for an Abusive Parent?
If domestic violence has been an issue, it’s possible in some cases for the abuser to become rehabilitated. For example, if the abuse is due to an addiction or substance abuse, then going through a recovery program can show the judge that the individual is willing to do what it takes to become a better parent. Anger management programs and counseling for mental health disorders are also ways that a parent might become rehabilitated. In some states, it’s possible for the custody arrangement to be modified even in cases where domestic violence influences child visitation. In others, supervised or unsupervised visitation might be allowed after rehabilitation.
How Can You Represent Yourself?
If you are in the situation of being involved in a relationship where domestic violence influences child visitation in court, it’s important that you are as prepared as possible when you go to court. If you cannot afford a lawyer, it’s possible that you can represent yourself. Work with a legal advocacy group; this is a much less expensive option that will prepare you for your day in court. The group can also handle mediation, parent evaluations, and other services that you might need for your case. Representing yourself will involve some research and preparation, but it is a cost-effective way of getting what is in the best interests of your child.
Living in a violent relationship is a harrowing experience, and while a divorce or a breakup might be painful emotionally, it can be what is best for you and for your child. Work with the legal system to secure your child’s future. Also, don’t hesitate to get counseling for yourself and your child to help you overcome the difficulties that you have been through. Reach out to the community for help and rely on your lawyer or legal advocacy service to assist you in navigating your experience with the court to keep you and your child safe.