Child Custody in Domestic Violence Cases
The definition of domestic abuse is not limited to physical harm; it consists of sexual assault, harassment, threats, stalking, and physical injury. Violence can continue and, in many cases, increase upon separation. Domestic violence allegations play a significant role in child custody hearings. The “moral presumption” in such cases does not allow the abuser to become the primary guardian of the child/children. However, the legal presumption is open to examining the case put forth by both parents.
The top priority of California’s legislature in custody cases is the health, safety, and welfare of the children. When deciding custody the court examines evidence which substantiates the incidence of abuse in the relationship, such as police records, reports from child protective services, or other court orders. If the allegations are proven to be true, then the abusive parent is not awarded either sole or joint custody by means of a “rebuttal presumption” applied by the court pursuant to Family Code section 3044.
The presumption can be overturned if the abusive parent (perpetrator) has successfully completed a batterer’s program, is on probation or parole, has not committed further acts of violence, or proves the children are best-taken care of under them. The victim of abuse can seek a temporary restraining order citing domestic abuse affecting the partner’s custody and visitation rights.
When the children have been subjected to extreme neglect or cruelty, the court has the right to terminate the physical and legal custody of the abusive parent. In such cases, the judgment is permanent and cannot be overturned. The parent loses all rights to their children.
Fabrications are quite common in domestic violence and child custody cases. In the latter, a parent may allege abuse to tip the scales in their favor and gain guardianship of the child. If the accused parent does not contest these allegations then the court will deem them true. It becomes even more difficult if the accused has a history of domestic violence. Therefore, the accused may lose joint child custody or any kind of contact with the children.
Child custody battles take a toll on the parents as well as children involved in them. Whether you are a victim of domestic violence or a concerned parent fighting for the welfare of your children, it is paramount to consider legal aid from a qualified family law attorney. Similarly, if you are at the receiving end of a false accusation of violence which can affect your custody case negatively, you need strong legal assistance to prove your innocence.
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