Domestic Violence: How it Can Affect Child Custody


Domestic violence has serious and far-reaching consequences, both physically and emotionally. As such, it should hardly be surprising that a history of family violence can significantly impact child custody rulings in a divorce case.

While isolated incidents of domestic violence don’t necessarily eliminate visitation rights for the abusive parent, they can often directly influence custody outcomes. As in other child custody hearings, the court will take the child’s best interests into account—and a history of family violence serves as an indicator of potential future danger to the child.

In many cases, the abusive spouse will be granted supervised visitation rights after the divorce. The abusive spouse is able to visit their child, but only with another authorized adult present. Such less restrictive measures are more typical after isolated incidents of domestic violence, but in more extreme cases, harsher judicial measures may be taken.

If a danger assessment concludes that a child would be endangered by spending time with an abusive spouse, the other spouse can apply for a protective order. In extreme cases (including incidents of sexual abuse against the child or felony assault against the other parent), a judge could terminate the abusive spouse’s parental rights entirely.

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