Domestic violence usually sparks the thoughts of criminal penalties the accused could face; however, this matter can extend to other areas of law. In Maryland, allegations of domestic violence are taken very seriously when brought up during a child custody battle. This not only questions a parent’s fitness to parent a child but also the best interests of the child. The safety of both the child and victim parent are paramount; therefore, it is important to understand how bringing forth claims of domestic violence in a family law matter could impact decisions regarding child custody.
Based on current statistics, 15.5 million children each year witness acts of domestic violence. This can range from physical, sexual, verbal, psychological, emotional and financial abuse. For many, acts of domestic violence are the catalyst that causes a spouse to leave their marriage. While domestic abuse is reason enough to part ways from a spouse, it is also a reason for the court to question the impact the matter has on a child if the couple has children.
While the accused may assert that these allegations are false and used to gain an upper hand in a custody battle, the court will view the matter as serious and carefully consider how best to move forward with child custody to ensure the best interests of the child are met and maintained.
The court will consider various factors when allegations of domestic violence are brought forth in a custody matter. To begin, the court will consider whether the alleged instances of domestic violence had any impact on the child or were directed at the child. Next, they will consider whether there are any current dangers posed to the child or other parent. The court will also consider the severity and frequency of the domestic violence, whether there are any pending criminal cases against the accused, the physical evidence of the abuse and any police reports that document the alleged incidents of abuse.
When there are indications that domestic violence has occurred, this can impact custody and visitation in various ways. It could result in the revocation of visitation rights, an order for supervised visitation, a revises visitation order, an order for the parent to attend parenting classes, anger management classes and participation in domestic violence counseling and even institute and restraining order or order for protection.
Navigating a situation of domestic violence can be complex and emotional. This is amplified when there is a custody battle. Thus, it is important that parents dealing with a custody matter that involves domestic violence understand how best to move forward with the situation so their rights are protected and the best interests of the child are met.