Kevin Qualls Family Law
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How domestic violence allegations affect child custody

Many times, standard child custody advice that even attorneys like to give to Orange County parents might not be workable in a parent's particular situation. Probably the best example of this is when one of the parents has committed an act of domestic violence against the other parent, as the standard child custody advice that parents should try to get along and have roughly equal time simply cannot be safely applied when one of the parents is abusive.

Recognizing that child custody cases require special treatment when domestic violence has occurred, California law sets down special rules that family law courts must follow in domestic violence cases. Basically, if a parent has been convicted of domestic violence less than 5 years prior to the custody case, then a judge may give that parent visitation, but the judge may not award the parent any form of custody, including legal decision-making authority.

Even without a criminal conviction, the judge may also independently decide that a parent, within 5 years, committed domestic violence either against the other parent or his or her children. There are some exceptions to this rule. To summarize them, a parent who has been accused of domestic violence may be able to show that he or she has been rehabilitated and deserves a second chance.

On the other hand, judges may consider domestic violence allegations that are older than 5 years in their decisions, but they need not deprive a parent custody as a result. As this blog has discussed previously, a judge can also order an accused abuser to restricted visits by using a different provision of California law.

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