Anytime a couple breaks up and children are involved, there are naturally many concerns regarding child custody. If domestic violence is part of the picture, parents — and the courts — have even greater concerns.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence right now, your first concern must be safety. Call 911 and get to a friend’s home or a shelter for victims of domestic violence. If necessary, talk to the police about getting a temporary restraining order, and speak with a California family law attorney who can assist you with the process.

Once the immediate danger has passed and it is clear that the relationship between the couple has ended, arrangements must be made concerning divorce (if the couple is married), child custody, and visitation. In all such decisions, California family law guides courts, putting the best interests of the children first.

Determining California Child Custody After Domestic Abuse

If the couple can agree on a child custody plan, the judge will generally approve it. If the couple cannot decide on a custody and/or visitation plan, the judge may appoint a mediator to help the couple resolve the issue. In cases involving domestic violence, the abused spouse can bring a support person along to the mediation, and meet with the mediator separately.

According to Orange County child custody lawyers, a court will not grant any kind of custody (joint or sole) to someone who has caused domestic violence in the last five years, although it can happen under certain circumstances. A court may grant child custody to a parent that has been abusive if that parent has established that it would be in the child’s best interests, that he or she has completed a batterer’s intervention program, and that he or she has complied with any probation or parole, restraining orders, substance abuse counseling, and/or parenting classes, where applicable.

Visitation and Domestic Violence

Visitation plans also take domestic violence into account. If there is any sort of protection order issued against the visiting spouse, it could lead to a court order suspending or denying visitation, or requiring that the visitation be supervised by a third party. The court may also specify exactly what time and place the visits will take place, and the specific way that the child will be transferred to that place. Furthermore, if one of the parents is in a victim’s shelter, those court orders will be made with extra care, so as not to disclose information about the location of the shelter or other personal information.

Keep in mind that if a custody agreement or visitation plan is already in place, but you suspect the other parent of domestic abuse, a court can modify that plan to protect you and your child. If that is the case, talk to an experienced family law attorney.