Domestic violence may not always involve physical harm to the children, but it can create an environment of fear. Navigating a divorce is hard enough when there has been violence within the marriage, but trying to figure out child custody matters complicates things.
Domestic violence can and usually does impact the court’s decisions about child custody.
The court will look at past issues when determining temporary and permanent child custody orders. The abuse does not have to occur to the child directly. The court will consider violence between parents. It does not have to be physical either. The court will consider intimidation or threats as an issue.
The court will look for a pattern of abuse or considerable evidence of a problem. The law sides with the child in the situation, assuming being with or around a parent prone to violence is not in the child’s best interests. The court may rule one parent gets full custody and limit the contact with the abusive parent or require only supervised contact.
Above all else, when making a decision, the court will always consider the safety of the children. The court will determine, through careful investigation, how safe the children will be with a parent accused of or shown to be violent. There are several ways the court could ensure the safety of the children, including requiring a bond paid by the parent when he or she has the children to guarantee their return to the other parent, supervised visitation, investigations into the abuse accusations and preventing overnight visits.
The bottom line is when domestic violence accusations occur during a custody situation, the court takes them seriously and will conduct a full investigation to keep the children safe.