Can a Parent’s Domestic Violence History Affect Child Custody in a Divorce?

Many factors affect a judge’s ruling in a divorce case when children are involved. A judge reviews all relevant information to paint a picture of specific circumstances, including any history of domestic violence. Keep reading to find out how a history of violence could work against a parent when child custody is at risk.
Carl Graham

Carl Graham

Managing Partner at Graham.Law.

It Can Result in Restricted Parenting and Decision Making

If the violence was against the other parent, Colorado law prohibits judges from giving the abuser joint decision-making with the victim except in limited circumstances which rarely apply.

If the child has witnessed domestic violence, that is typically deemed harmful to the child, and regarded as a form of child abuse under Colorado law. This will likely result in the abuser’s parenting time being limited. In the most recent case I litigated, the child had witnessed the mother’s new husband physically abusing the mother, and it was affecting the child’s well-being, with the child acting out violently at school, getting poor grades, and having nightmares.

The judge, while sympathetic to the mother as a DV survivor, nonetheless was obliged to protect the child so restricted her parenting time, going from equal custody to daytime parenting only, in a public place, for a few days per month. I’m assuming from the term “domestic violence” that you are limiting the question to IPV (intimate partner violence), but if you are using that term more broadly to include violence against children, then the impact on parenting would be even greater.

Upon a finding of violence against children (in Colorado, that means any child, not just the ones involved in the custody action), not only would the abuser’s parenting time typically be restricted or supervised, but the abuser is prohibited by law from sharing decision-making over the child, with no exceptions. Finally, note that child custody cases use the civil “preponderance of the evidence” standard, so no criminal conviction is required to prove domestic violence.

Child Safety is a Top Consideration

Absolutely. It can have a significant impact on child custody decisions. In these custody decisions, the court wants to place the child in the best possible outcome, so the child’s safety is a top consideration. If a parent has a history of domestic violence, that indicates to the court that the child may not be safe with that parent, and therefore the outcome is going to be highly stacked against that parent.

Ben Michael

Ben Michael

Loretta Kilday

Loretta Kilday

DebtCC Spokesperson, Debt Consolidation Care.

The Specifics Vary per Jurisdiction

One must bear in mind that a parent’s prior encounters with domestic violence are influential on child custody decisions during divorce. In most jurisdictions, courts must weigh the occurrence of domestic violence when determining what is best for the child. Although domestic violence is one of the obligatory factors considered in custody determinations in twenty six states, this importance varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

In such cases like those witnessed in Alaska, where both parents have committed acts of domestic violence, custody may be awarded to the less violent parent or a third party. This does not imply that a person has to be convicted of domestic violence in order for it to be considered in making decisions about child custody.

Thus evidence of domestic violence even without any conviction still must be addressed by those several states e.g. Florida. The main aim is always to ensure that the child remains unharmed and well taken care of under all conditions. For instance, courts sometimes specify restricted visitation as a way of safeguarding children’s lives through this kind of supervision arrangement. Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits, taking into account the specific circumstances and legal standards of the jurisdiction.

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