Children and family violence do not mix. Children are vulnerable and completely depend on adults to provide them with safety and stability. Domestic violence and child abuse are devastating to children. Firstly, there is the risk or actual bodily harm suffered by children exposed to violence in the home.
Secondly, children also experience an incredible emotional detriment when they are physically abused or they witness violence against a household member. They can carry this trauma with them their entire lives and are more likely to have significant mental health issues, to have trust issues, and to enter into violent relationships when they become adults.
Child Custody Determinations Consider Violence
Courts recognize the risks and impact that violence has and do not tolerate violence when it comes to children. The last thing any judge wants is to send a child with a parent, only for the child to suffer serious bodily harm or death.
When it comes to child custody, the overarching consideration that a court must determine is the best interest of the child. There are numerous factors that the court can weigh when reaching a best interest determination, including: (1) the safety of the child; (2) any history of family violence or child abuse; (3) the stability of the home; (4) the child’s relationship with each parent; and (5) parenting ability.
Family court judges will consider a pattern of domestic violence or child abuse in determining what is in a child’s best interest. This could result in the non-offending parent receiving sole legal custody or primary physical custody of the child.
Restricted Visitation is Likely
However, even if there has been violence, the court may still grant visitation rights to a parent who has engaged in violence. This visitation may be determined based on how long ago the violence occurred, the nature and frequency of the violence, and whether the offending parent has engaged in any sort of programs to reform his or her behavior.
When considering the safety of the child, a court may grant supervised visitation between the parent and child. This may occur in the presence of a designated adult or may occur at an organization that monitors visitation. The court may eventually modify this order and allow for unsupervised visitation if the parent can demonstrate that there is no longer a safety issue. A parent may do this by attending therapy, or some sort of batterer’s intervention program.
On the outer edge of this spectrum, if the violence has been severe or recurrent or the court determines that there is a continued danger to the child, an offending parent’s rights may be subject to complete restriction of visitation or even termination of parental rights. Termination of parental rights is a last resort and severs all legal rights between a parent and child. This is reserved for situations of severe abuse, felony abuse, or domestic violence, and sexual abuse of a child.
New Direction Family Law
The safety of your children is of paramount importance to us. If you or your children have been victims of violence at the hands of your spouse, get help. If you are interested in assistance with a protective order, separation, or child custody order, contact us for a consultation. At New Direction Family Law, we pride ourselves in advocating for our clients and utilizing every element of the law to guide them toward a brighter tomorrow. We serve Wake, Johnston, Durham and surrounding counties. Contact our office at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or reach us online at our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law