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What you should know about custody laws and domestic violence

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent survey, approximately 32.9 percent of women living in California have been victims of violence, sexual violence, or stalking by their partner or spouse.

If you have been the victim of domestic violence and have child, you may be concerned about your partner's custody rights once you have separated.

How is custody decided if there is domestic violence?

The first thing that will happen is that the judge overseeing the case must decide if there is domestic violence.

If the violence took place in the last five years, the judge will treat the case as domestic violence if at least one of two conditions is met. Either one parent must have been convicted of domestic violence against the other parent, or any other court has decided that one parent has committed violence against the other parent or the children.

If the violence occurred more than five years ago, the judge has the option of taking that into consideration when determining custody. If the court reaches the conclusion that domestic violence has been committed, custody will not be granted to the abuser. However, that parent may receive visitation rights.

Is it possible for a parent that has committed domestic violence to receive custody?

Yes, it is possible for a judge to grant joint or sole custody to the abusive parent.

First, it must be proved that it is in the child's best interest to be placed with that parent. Also, the parent must have successfully completed a 52-week batterer's intervention program as well as any other court ordered courses or counseling programs. In addition, the parent must also be in compliance with any terms of probation, parole, or restraining orders. Most importantly, the parent must not have committed any additional acts of domestic violence.

Will my partner receive visitation rights?

It is possible for the individual that committed domestic violence to receive visitation rights.

If a protective order or other type of restraining order has been issued, the court will consider if it is in the best interest of the child to have either unsupervised visitation or supervised visitation with the parent. Depending on the severity of the situation, it is possible that the court may decide that visitation is not an option and deny it altogether.

Is it possible for the grandparents to receive visitation rights?

Yes, it is possible for grandparents to be granted visitation, regardless of whether the parents of the child are married or unmarried. However, it is up to the grandparents to prove that such visitation is in the best interest of the child. Visitation rights of the grandparents may be denied if both parents agree that visitation should not be granted or if the parent with sole legal and physical custody does not allow it. In such cases, it is the grandparents' responsibility to convince the judge otherwise and prove that visitation is in the child's best interests.

If you have been the victim of domestic abuse and have a child, it is important to know your options concerning custody rights. For advice in such cases, contact an attorney experienced in family law.

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