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Can a domestic abuser get custody or visitation rights?

On Behalf of | Aug 21, 2023 | FAMILY LAW - Child Custody, FAMILY LAW - Domestic Violence

Child custody cases vary, and courts review several factors, including any history of domestic violence, to decide custody and visitation arrangements for each case. Understandably, most domestic violence victims deal with anxiety and worry that their abuser might get custody or visitation when there is still fear and intimidation at play. Understanding the court’s decision-making process may help alleviate those worries.

On custody awards

While the courts consider a long list of factors when deciding on custody, they will likely award physical custody to the nonabusive parent. If there is a history of domestic violence, placing the child with the abuser, even if it wasn’t the child they previously abused, is equivalent to exposing the child to danger.

On visitation rights

Courts value the relationship of the child with each parent. Therefore, they may still grant visitation rights to noncustodial parents. However, courts might limit or totally ban the abusive parent from seeing their child if there is a history of domestic violence.

When it comes to limited visitations, the court may allow the noncustodial parent to be with their child but under supervision or only for a few hours. On the other hand, if the court finds that it is not in the child’s best interests to see and be with the abusive parent at all, it can deny visitation entirely.

Can the custody and visitation order change in the future?

Suppose the abusive parent decides to go through counseling, therapy or parenting classes, and shows much progress. In that case, the court can modify the order upon motion to allow visitations and, in rare instances, custody. Accordingly, those who initially gained visitation rights but were subsequently convicted of domestic abuse may also lose those rights.

Courts do not take domestic abuse lightly, whether it is still an accusation or substantially proven. While courts value the parent-child relationship, the child’s best interests are still its main priority.