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Children

Domestic Violence and Child Custody FAQ

Child custody issues come up frequently when survivors of domestic violence leave the abusive relationship. Below are some of the most common questions we receive about child custody. Contact our legal department today at 479-442-9811 if you have additional questions or need legal representation.

Can an abusive parent get custody or visitation?

An abusive parent may be allowed custody or visitation if the judge believes you and your children can stay safe. To ensure this, the judge can require supervised visits or arrange for the pick-up and drop-off of your children to take place in a protected space.

If the judge does not believe you or your children are still in danger, he/she may order custody or visitation without any protective measures. As a result, it is important the judge believes you when you talk about the violence. You may want to keep evidence of the violence ready, if you have any.

If you feel there is a risk of violence, you can ask the judge:

  • For pick-up and drop-off of your children to happen in a protected place
  • To allow someone other than you to deliver or pick-up the children for visits
  • To allow only email contact between the parents

How does a judge make decisions about custody?

The judge will always look to the child’s best interests. So if you are filing for custody, you should be able to show how the custody arrangement you want is in your child’s best interests. To do this, you should be prepared with as much information as possible about yourself and the other parent. If you are accusing the other parent of abuse, the judge will look at the abuser’s history of causing such injury, physical harm, assault, or causing reasonable fear of injury, physical harm, and assault to another person.

A judge may look at a history of drug or alcohol abuse and order testing for either or both parents. If the child is of a sufficient age and mental capacity, the judge can also consider the preferences of the child.

What is mediation?

Mediation uses a neutral third-party to help parents agree on issues relating to custody and visitation of the child. The court may order you to take part in mediation.

You should talk to a lawyer or domestic violence advocate before going to mediation, or have a lawyer go with you if you can. Your abuser may use mediation as an opportunity for further control and abuse, and he/she may intimidate you into thinking an agreement is reasonable when it may not be. A lawyer and/or victim advocate can help you prepare for this.

How can Peace at Home help?

If you have experienced domestic violence and are going through a custody dispute with your abuser, you do not have to go through the process alone.  Peace at Home’s legal department can help you acquire legal representation, accompany you to the court hearing, provide you with emotional support, and help you develop a safety plan. Call 479.442.9811 to speak with an advocate about our legal services.


Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

Witnessing domestic violence can have long-lasting negative effects on children. When domestic violence is in the home, many children directly witness the abuse occurring. Even if children do not see incidents of physical abuse in the home, they are often more aware of abuse than the abused parent realizes. Children can hear yelling and fighting noises from other rooms and witness the aftermath of physical abuse.

Children may respond to witnessing domestic violence in a variety of ways.

They may –

  • Become fearful or anxious over what will happen in the home
  • Always feel on guard – “walking on eggshells” to avoid the abusers outbursts
  • Blame themselves for the violence in the home
  • Have trouble concentrating in school
  • Try to protect the abused parent
  • Attempt to run away because they feel home is a dangerous place
  • Experiment with alcohol, drugs, or other high risk behaviors to cope with their feelings

Children who have witnessed domestic violence need support. As parents who have experienced abuse seek support for themselves, there are also ways to help the children.

Here are some ways to support children who have experienced domestic violence:

  • Let them know that the abuse is not their fault.
  • Come up with a family safety plan for staying safe before, during and after leaving abuse. Our Family Safety Plan can help with this.
  • After leaving the abuse, help the child connect with a counselor. Peace at Home offers counseling for families and many schools have options as well.
  • Teach alternatives to violence.
  • Give them daily reminders that they are loved, valued, and supported.
  • Let them know you are here to listen if they want to talk about how the violence made them feel.
  • Be a role model for treating others with respect and kindness.