Domestic Violence, Custody & Visitation
The degree to which domestic violence affects the outcome of custody and visitation determinations depends on the state law and an individual judge’s view of the case. Some states consider domestic violence a central issue in custody and visitation; others view it as just one of many factors in the best interests of the child.
Courts often consider-sometimes heavily- how long a child has been living away from the parent seeking custody. If a battered woman has fled without her children to secure her own safety, or the abuser has temporary custody for any other reason, the woman will need to take immediate steps to ensure that any time spent away from her children will not hurt her long-term custody chances. Consult a family law attorney with domestic violence expertise for help taking the right steps.
To learn more about custody/visitation laws in your state, visit WomensLaw.org and scroll down to your state.
There is no question that domestic violence is a hot-button issue in child custody, and that many women without seasoned family lawyers on their side must fight an uphill custody battle- too often a losing one - against abusers and/or attorneys.
Victims and attorneys alike must understand that judges have varying degrees of knowledge and empathy for abused victims. The judge may not be empathetic or may even be hostile toward victims. In those cases victims will need to rely on other facts to make the case for custody (e.g. who is the children’s primary caregiver). By the same token, don’t assume that an empathetic judge will automatically grant custody to the victim. Facts and state law will determine how much weight the issue of domestic violence carries in each case, but above all judges look at the credibility of both the victim and the abuser, and evidence of their parenting skills. Victims in the throes of crisis must be well prepared to testify so judges don’t draw the wrong conclusions about character based on court demeanor.
Learn court tips in domestic violence cases.
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