When Does Domestic Abuse Affect Child Custody in California?

This Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, it’s important to remember that domestic abuse isn’t limited to romantic relationships. Anyone who has a close relationship with someone they live with can be a victim of domestic violence. This includes family members, especially children. That’s why children and child custody are so heavily protected by California law. Allegations of abuse can significantly impact custody arrangements in the state. Here’s what you need to know about how domestic violence can affect your family law agreement and what to do to protect your children.

Child Custody Laws in California

Family law walks a fine line between protecting children’s safety and protecting parents’ rights. Obviously, kids’ safety comes first. If someone has determined to have committed abuse in the five years before the hearing, then the judge is bound by law 3044 to only award custody to that person if they genuinely believe it’s in the child’s best interest. Methods of determining abuse include:
  • A conviction for domestic violence against the child’s other parent, the child, or their current partner
  • A finding of domestic violence by a court, such as granting of a restraining order
Still, California law prioritizes maintaining parent-child relationships whenever it’s safe. As a result, not every allegation of abuse leads to the potential abuser losing the right to care for their children. If the abusive behavior stopped more than five years ago, if it hasn’t been officially determined by a court of law, or if the abuse was committed against someone with no connection to the child, law 3044 doesn’t apply.

How Domestic Abuse Affects Custody

If law 3044 applies to your custody case, then it’s likely that the abuser will not get responsibility for the child at all. If the court agrees domestic violence occurred and will likely happen again, the abuser is considered a danger to the children. As a result, they may only receive supervised visitation. The other parent will receive full legal and physical custody. In other situations, the parents may still share control of the child. This is based on the court’s understanding of the past five years of the abuser’s behavior. If they have:
  • Committed no further domestic violence in the past five years
  • Completed ordered anger management, batterer intervention, or drug and alcohol programs since the harm occurred
  • Completed a court-ordered parenting class
  • Followed all terms and conditions of extant restraining orders
Then the former abuser may be granted partial custody of the kids if the judge determines it’s in their best interest. You will still have the right to a detailed order that clarifies exactly how the child’s time will be split and how child exchanges will be handled to keep you safe from the abuser.

Protect Your Children from Abuse

You owe it to your kids to keep them safe. If you’re in an abusive relationship, that means leaving and taking steps to protect them from the abusive person. California law is on your side, but you should still get help. Reach out to an experienced California family law attorney to discuss your situation. They can give you advice and help you build a case to win full custody.

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