Few things in society are considered as sacred as raising a child. California strongly condemns child abuse (as well as any other form of domestic violence), and child abuse can have a determinative impact on matters such as child custody. Below, this article will discuss how child abuse or domestic violence can impact child custody disputes.
What Constitutes As Child Abuse in Custody Cases?
Although California takes domestic violence incredibly seriously, it can be a sticky concept. Sadly, many people suffer from domestic violence without even realizing it, and many others realize it but are too afraid to step forward. Therefore, the first step to combat domestic violence is to ensure that people know what constitutes domestic violence.
Domestic violence consists of two parts: the act, and the target. The following is a nonexclusive list of many possible acts of domestic violence:
- Recklessly or intentionally causing bodily harm;
- Making someone reasonably fear an immediate threat of bodily harm;
- Sexual assault;
- Harassment; and
These acts constitute domestic violence when aimed at certain targets. The following is a nonexclusive list of many possible targets of domestic violence:
- Current or former spouses;
- People who live together;
- People who are related by blood or marriage; or
For example, if a father makes his child reasonably fear immediate bodily harm, such as by threatening to hit the child, then he may have committed domestic violence in the form of child abuse.
How Does Child Abuse or Other Domestic Violence Impact Child Custody Disputes?
Child abuse or other domestic violence can have a severe impact on child custody disputes. One of the primary tenets of child custody in California is that each parent has an equal right to custody of their child; by default, the court will assume that a 50/50 custody arrangement is most appropriate. However, the court will consider many factors in determining the custody arrangement, such as the agreement of the parents, the wishes of the child, the ability of each parent to provide adequate care, and any history of domestic violence, among other factors.
Child Abuse or Domestic Violence Shifts the Burden onto the Abuser to Seek Custody
If, in the last five years, (1) one parent was convicted of domestic violence against the other parent or (2) any court has determined that one parent committed domestic violence against the other parent or the child, THEN the judge will ordinarily not grant custody of any kind to the abuser. This is because the judge will assume that giving custody to the abuser would be against the child’s best interests. However, the abuser may nevertheless fight this presumption. Often, the abuser can obtain certain visitation rights, which may or may not be under supervision. Click here for further details on the different types of visitation orders.
How an Abuser May Gain Full or Partial Child Custody
Under certain circumstances, the abuser may be able to win partial or even full custody of the child. A judge can grant partial or full custody to a parent– despite any history of abuse– if the parent:
- Proves to the court that giving them custody is in the best interests of the child;
- Has successfully completed a 52-week batterer intervention program;
- Has successfully completed any court-ordered substance abuse counseling;
- Has successfully completed any court-ordered parenting classes;
- Has complied with the terms of probation or parole, as applicable
- Has complied with any applicable restraining orders; and
- Has NOT committed any further domestic violence.
The judge will apply this seven-factor test in every child custody dispute involving domestic violence, regardless of any internal or external recommendations. If the parent who committed domestic violence can pass this test, the judge may then apply its standard analysis for all child custody matters, and it may grant partial or full custody if deemed appropriate. Click here for more information on how child custody is ordinarily determined in California.
Contact Pride Legal
If you or a loved one are involved in a child custody dispute, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.