How does domestic violence affect child custody in California?
As in any other state, any history of violence in a relationship in California, regardless of the marital status of parents, is very likely to affect custody decisions made by the courts. This determination is within the primary consideration of all courts governing child custody and the mandate that a child’s well-being is first and foremost when identifying whether parents are fit and capable. However, this does not mean that a parent who has a history of domestic violence would not be able to visit his or her child or be involved in the child’s life.
Before any history of domestic violence influences a judge’s decision, he or she must first determine whether acts of domestic violence are directly associated with the case under consideration. Domestic violence cases or allegations in the preceding five years can affect a child custody decision. This involves convictions of domestic abuse or any court decision that says one parent committed abuse against the other parent or the child.
If there has been such a history, then a judge must follow special rules in providing that parent with parental rights and parental duties. It is unlikely that the parent who committed a domestic violence act will be awarded child custody. However, he or she may be entitled to visitation rights provided that he or she has successfully completed a batterer’s intervention program, substance-abuse counseling, or both.
The parent should also show the court that joint custody would be in the child’s best interests. The parent should also complete a court-ordered parenting class and also comply with the terms of any probation or parole. Visitation rights can also be granted if no restraining order has been filed against a parent and he or she has not committed any additional acts of domestic violence.
Source: Courts.ca.gov “Custody and Domestic Violence,” Accessed Aug. 28, 2014