What Effect Does an Accusation of Domestic Violence Have on a Child Custody Case?

There are several factors that may influence your child custody arrangement, all of which involve what is in the best interest of your child. The courts do not consider, for example, your preferences or your spouse’s when determining a custody arrangement. They do, however, consider your testimony, including allegations of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse allegations can deeply impact your child custody case. Here’s what you need to know.

Allegations of Domestic Violence

Allegations of domestic violence are just that – accusations. At times, an allegation of domestic violence comes out of nowhere and a spouse may seek a restraining order without advance notice or warning. This restraining order gets the process underway, and from there a family court must decide if the allegations are true (and how they will affect a subsequent custody ruling). Unfortunately, some people file these motions in an attempt to gain custody, but in other instances the accounts are genuine.

If the courts find evidence of domestic abuse upon investigation, this can have a profound impact on the case. According to California law, if the courts find evidence of domestic violence against the parent, the child, or other siblings within the past five years, the court operates on the presumption that the abusing parent should not receive sole or joint legal custody.

California Definition of Domestic Violence

According to California law, domestic violence occurs when the courts find evidence that a person acted recklessly or intentionally caused (or attempted to cause) bodily injury or sexual assault. It also applies when it causes the victim to believe that their physical harm or someone else’s is imminent. Examples of domestic violence include:

  • Threatening
  • Striking or hitting
  • Destroying personal property
  • Harassing
  • Disturbing the peace of another

If the courts find evidence of any of these things, California law presumes that the parent should not have custody. While it does not bar supervised visitation, getting a custody arrangement could prove difficult. In order to overcome this presumption, the person found guilty of abuse must take classes or address the root issue of the abuse (such as drug use), if applicable. Even then, there is no guarantee that they will get full custody of a child.

What About False Accusations?

Unfortunately, there are certain instances in which a spouse may make false accusations in order to gain sole custody of the children. This is rare, but it can happen. If you find yourself in this position, you’ll need an experienced family law attorney to defend you. The courts rely on physical evidence such as arrest records, medical records, and photographic evidence to make a ruling. A lack of this evidence may help your case, but the courts take these findings very seriously. If the courts find no evidence of domestic violence, it’s unlikely to affect your custody arrangement. As always, the decision will depend on what is in the best interest of your children.

An allegation of domestic violence can seriously impact your child custody case. Your best course of action is to retain the services of a qualified San Diego family law attorney.