Abusive relationships are difficult in many ways, and while divorce can set you free, if there are children involved, custody can be difficult. You may wonder whether you are obligated to let your ex have custody over your children or whether you can gain full custody over them.
Here is what you need to know about what can happen with child custody when you have an abusive spouse you’re divorcing. Bear in mind that in order to know what your specific options are, you will need to consult with an attorney. This blog does not constitute legal advice, but rather provides general information that may or may not be relevant to your case.
Does Your Abusive Spouse Have A Right To Child Custody?
Some victims of abuse think that it is not their right to stand between a child and their other parent. They think that the other parent has a right to have a relationship with their child.
In cases of abuse, many victims are not believed because while the abuser may be abusive to them, they are not abusive to other people in their life. As such, people may claim that the victim is lying because they have never seen that sort of behavior from the abuser.
However, it is common for abusers to abuse some people while being perfectly charming and normal to others. Some victims of abuse think that because of this, just because they were abused does not mean that the abuser will abuse the children, and ergo assume that they should not press charges and should allow the abuser child custody.
Courts generally want what is best for the child. If the child might be in danger, they may deny or restrict custody. In order for this to occur, there must be proof beyond reasonable doubt that the children would be in danger around your abusive spouse.
About Child Custody In Divorces With Domestic Violence
Cases involving abuse are always challenging. While false allegations of abuse are rare (between 2% – 10% of all accusations made, meaning that 90+% of accusations are made in good faith), they do occur. This means that it needs to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the abuse occurred and the accused is responsible. If you’re worried for your safety and/or your children’s safety, you may be scared of the process, worried you won’t be believed, and want to know what you can do in order to protect your children and yourself.
However, courts want to keep your children safe. They will thoroughly investigate the abuse, the acts committed, the frequency of the acts, and the impact the abuse has had on children. They do not want your children exposed to or witnessing domestic violence.
Do Abusive Spouses Get Child Custody?
There are many ways that custody can turn out in cases with domestic violence, depending on the evidence, how the children are affected, and the judge. Typically, both parents should be able to have a meaningful role in the upbringing of their child, but domestic violence can complicate the matter. Even when domestic violence is present in a divorce case, it does not automatically mean that the violent spouse will lose custody or parenting rights.
The judge will consider all factors involving the danger the violent spouse presents to the children when making a decision. Judges typically want to allow for the possibility of a bond with both parents, so long as the children themselves are not in danger.
While it may be upsetting to know that in most cases, your abusive spouse will still be able to visit your children even if they do not get custody, this isn’t out of the ordinary. As long as the parent has not abused the children, it is common for them to have visitation rights. If you do not feel safe around your spouse, you can agree to meet at a very public location, such as the local police station, or ask the court to appoint a supervisor for the visit.
If your spouse has a long history of domestic violence, then the judge may choose to severely restrict visitation. Many judges opt for supervised visitation in cases involving domestic violence. This is when your spouse and your child may be observed and supervised by a third party during a short visit at a neutral location.
Other options include ordering the violent spouse to undergo therapy while the custody case is pending.
You may be able to get an emergency custody order while fighting for long-term custody of your children.
If you have other ideas, you can propose them to the judge. Most judges are open to ideas that keep everyone safe while allowing visitation.
However, if the abusive spouse has been abusive to the children as well, they may lose all custody and visitation rights. It is important to have a good lawyer on your side in order to keep both you and your children safe.
Do You Need Help With Your Child Custody Case?
Kaufman, Nichols, & Kaufman provides family law representation in the Ogden area. We understand how contentious child custody cases can be, and how much more difficult domestic violence makes the matter. We are here to help you keep yourself and your child safe. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do to assist you with child custody matters in Ogden, UT.