restraining order

Domestic Violence and Child Custody by Cassandra Hearn


Domestic violence comes in many shapes and sizes. The most common type we tend to think of is physical or sexual violence against a partner, but emotional abuse can be just as harmful. Economic abuse (where one partner uses finances to control the other) is yet another form of domestic violence. Although California is a "no fault" state for divorce grounds, the courts will take domestic violence into account when making a child custody determination. It's also important to note that domestic violence is not limited to just between spouses. Domestic violence is any type of violence committed between spouses, people who live together or used to live together regularly, relatives, people who have children together, or people who are dating.


Domestic violence can absolutely be a crucial aspect to a child custody case, whether or not it’s in the context of a divorce. The California law recognizes that domestic violence in all its forms can be detrimental to children, and the main aim of child custody laws is to ensure their health, safety, and welfare. There is a list of best interest factors that are taken into account by a judge when making any child custody determination. One of these factors is the existence of domestic violence by a parent against 1) any child to whom the parent is or was related to in the past; 2) any child the parent had any care taking responsibility of; 3) the other parent; or 4) a parent, spouse, fiancé, roommate, or significant other of the parent seeking custody.


During a custody case, the judge will hear testimony from both parties and any witnesses about potential domestic violence. Other evidence supporting allegations of domestic violence may also be used, including law enforcement reports, records from child welfare agencies, medical records, or other court orders.


If the judge determines that there has been domestic violence, then there will be an automatic rebuttable presumption that the offending parent will not receive joint or sole custody of the child. The offending parent may present evidence to overcome that presumption. That evidence may include such things as completion of anger management, whether the perpetrator is on probation, and whether he or she has refrained from domestic violence.


In addition to the custody determination, domestic violence may have an effect on the visitation schedule. It is not in the best interest of the children to be exposed to violence, so a judge may order only supervised visits or other similar provisions to protect a child.


Domestic violence is an all too present threat in today’s family. We can give you a clear picture of how domestic violence in any of its forms will impact your divorce or child custody case. Contact us today at 619-800-0384 to make an appointment to review your options.