California child custody: Handling domestic violence

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While no one often wants to talk about it, domestic violence is a serious problem in our society today. According to the California Partnership To End Domestic Violence a survey shows that 40 percent of women in the state are victims of domestic violence and 75 percent of those women have minor children. These statistics cover physical abuse but there are also other forms of domestic violence such as emotional and mental abuse.

If you are in the middle of a divorce and you have been the victim of domestic violence, the situation can be frightening, especially if you have children. Your spouse may choose to use the children as a weapon to retain control over you, threatening to move away with the children, or telling you that they will make sure that you don't get custody of them. However, with the right knowledge you can protect your parental rights and obtain the protection that you need.

Use the law

The California Family Code states that each parent has a legal claim on child custody so if you have been abused by your spouse you want to make sure that the court is made aware of it. One way to do this is to go to the court and obtain a restraining order for yourself and your children. You will be asked to provide as much information as possible, such as:

  • Date of the last abusive action
  • Witnesses to the abuse
  • Description of the abuse
  • Injuries, if any
  • Police interference

A restraining order allows you to determine the type of contact that you have with your spouse. For example, you can ask for multiple orders that instruct your spouse to move out of the family home, to stay away from you and the children, and to even make no contact with you or your children through email, text or other methods. If you are involved in an abusive situation with your spouse and the police are called, you may be able to obtain an emergency protective order right then with their assistance.

While a restraining or protective order doesn't guarantee that the other person will obey it, it does give you the power to call law enforcement and have that spouse arrested for violating the terms of it.

Legal help

Going through a divorce and custody dispute with an abusive spouse can be emotionally, mentally and physically draining. Therefore, it is always a good idea to seek legal help through an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can assess your situation and help you get into a women and children's shelter, apply for a restraining order on your behalf and help you assemble the evidence you need to protect yourself and your children.