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Domestic Violence Is So Much More than Physical

Domestic Violence Is So Much More than Physical Abuse and It Can Alter Custody and Visitation for the Life of a Child

Unfortunately, (or fortunately for you, if you need an experienced attorney) I have significant experience with Domestic Violence, its causes, forms, and its impact on Custody and Visitation. This includes working with the foremost legal mind in the State on the legal implications and also with the leading therapists and experts on its long-term impact on victims and children. This issue is a societal issue and we are all suffering the consequences of women who are victims to domestic violence (not to say that men are not also victims, but it extremely rare). If you have ever seen a woman’s face after her husband has beat her up, then you know that it’s an image that you cannot ever forget. We need to do a better job of raising men who respect and protect women and women who demand respect and do not tolerate abuse. California law on domestic violence has evolved to include all forms of domestic violence in a hope to better protect the victims and children in this State.

There are many forms of domestic violence: physical, mental, emotional, and even economic abuse (this is when one spouse controls all of the finances in a controlling manner). All forms of domestic violence leaves scars and can even impact custody decisions. Abusing a spouse is generally a negative sign about a persons’ parenting skills.

Because many forms of domestic violence do not include physical violence, victims of other forms of abuse do realize that they are being abused. Understanding how the law defines abuse is important. In California, abuse is defined as:

  • intentionally or recklessly causing or trying to cause bodily injury

  • sexual assault

  • making other people feel reasonably afraid that they or someone else are in danger of immediate bodily injury, and

  • any other behavior that could cause a court to issue a domestic protective order, including harassment, unwanted telephone calls, stalking, threats, and physical assault

When these are done to certain people, it’s considered domestic violence. All that conduct is considered domestic violence when it’s committed against the following people:

  • current and former spouses

  • people who live together or formerly lived together on a regular basis

  • people who are related by blood or marriage

  • people who have children together

  • children, and

  • people who are or have been dating or engaged.

These types of relationships come with an expectation of safety. When that is violated by any of the means described above, it is domestic violence.

When considering custody of children, the Court must take into consideration, any instances of domestic violence. They will consider:

  • any child to whom the abusive parent is related by blood or marriage, no matter how temporary

  • any child with whom the abusive parent has had a caretaking relationship, no matter how temporary

  • the other parent, and

  • a parent, current spouse, fiancé or fiancée, girlfriend or boyfriend in a dating relationship, or roommate of the parent or person seeking custody.

If there is a finding of domestic violence by one of the parents, then the Court applies a “rebuttable presumption” (a legal assumption that can only be overcome by enough evidence) that the other parent shouldn’t have sole or joint custody. The court has to look at the following factors to see if an abusive parent can overcome the rebuttable presumption:

  • whether the perpetrator proves that it’s in the child’s best interests for the perpetrator to have custody

  • whether, if ordered to do so, the perpetrator has successfully completed batterer’s treatment, alcohol and chemical dependency programming, and parenting classes

  • whether the perpetrator is on probation or parole and, if so, whether the perpetrator has complied with all the requirements

  • whether the perpetrator is restrained by any protective orders and, if so, whether the perpetrator has complied with them, and

  • whether the perpetrator has committed any further acts of domestic violence.

It is not in the child’s best interest to be exposed to domestic violence. If a judge finds that a parent has committed domestic violence and is likely to continue, custody could be limited to supervised visitation or even none until they get some treatment for their problems. In extreme cases or emergencies, temporary orders can be issued to protect the children from abuse or viewing abuse.

If you are in a domestic violence situation, then you must get out of it with your children. Call 911 in an emergency or call my office for assistance. Telephone number: (925) 384-2086. Many women are afraid to leave their abuser. If this is you, then you are not alone, but the longer you stay, the harder it is to leave, and the abuse will only increase over time. Please contact my office.