4 Things To Know About Child Custody and Domestic Violence
For spouses in violent relationships, there are a much different set of issues to consider when thinking about divorce. In cases of child custody and domestic violence, the most important objective is the safe transition out of the marriage for both the abused spouse and children.
Here are some important things to keep in mind for those who are ready (or almost ready) to take the final step and get out of their violent relationship.
1) Keep Good Records
For those still living with their spouse or partner, try to keep detailed records of every incident of physical and/or emotional abuse that involves you or your children. Write down the date, time, and place of the incident, as well as a description of what happened.
Be sure to note any injuries to yourself or your children. Keeping these records will be a huge help if you and your attorney (if you have one) need to go before a judge to ensure that you and your children will be protected from your abuser.
2) Have A Safety Plan
Parents concerned about child custody and domestic violence should, as soon as they’ve made the decision to leave, make a plan on where to go to ensure their own safety and children’s safety.
Try to save some cash and, if possible, keep it someone outside your home. Extra clothes for yourself and your children will also be helpful, but most importantly of all: have a safe place to go lined up. Try and find a place your abuser won’t look for you right away, which means (again, if possible) don’t got to your best friend’s house, your parent’s house, or anywhere else predictable.
Try asking a coworker or a friend that your spouse doesn’t know about if they’ll let you stay with them for a short while. If all else fails, try a shelter or a hotel.
3) Get Immediate Legal Custody Of Your Children
In cases involving child custody and domestic violence issues, go to court right away to file an emergency protective order that will give you both custody of the children and require your spouse to stay away from you.
It’s very important to know that if you don’t include custody in the protective order, you may be accused of kidnapping.
Keep in mind that the emergency custody order will be temporary. Long term and/or permanent custody of your children will be part of your divorce proceedings. A judge will make a decision about child custody based on what the judge believes to be your children’s best interests.
This is why having detailed records of abuse to yourself and your children is so important when going before a judge.
4) Visitation Rights
As difficult as it may be to believe and accept, if an abusive spouse has not abused the children, it is not uncommon for a violent parent to get visitation rights in cases regarding child custody and domestic violence.
However, if appropriate, you can ask for supervised visits or for the court to require your spouse to not drink or bring certain people around your kids.
If possible, make arrangements to drop your children off at a neutral site or have trusted friends or family drop them off at your spouse’s home.
You can also ask the court to appoint a supervisor for visitation. If you have other ideas or concerns about visitation, propose them to a judge. Many judges will consider any plans or concerns that will keep everyone safe.
Legal Help For Child Custody And Domestic Violence
A “normal” divorce is a difficult enough process for any spouse to have to go through, but becomes infinitely more complex when child custody and domestic violence are added into the equation.
It is highly recommended that anyone considering going through this process hire a competent family law attorney as soon as they’ve made the decision to proceed with leaving their violent relationship. A good attorney will help guide and mentor you through the process and help ensure both your own safety and the safety of your children.
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