Like other states, California has taken many steps to protect victims of domestic violence and their families. As part of these measures, California has passed several laws which potentially limit the custody and parenting time of a parent credibly accused of domestic violence.
These measures are important for Manhattan Beach parents, both those who are victims of domestic violence and those who may be the target of a false or unfounded accusation.
Parents who commit domestic violence will find it hard to get or keep custody
The reason is these laws can profoundly affect a parent’s custody rights.
Basically, if the family court finds that a parent has committed an act of domestic violence against the other parent, the children, or even certain other people, the court’s starting point will be that the accused parent should not have either legal or physical custody.
For this law to apply, the domestic violence has to have happened within the prior five years.
While courts may consider a criminal conviction as evidence of domestic violence, it is important for parents to remember that this law can apply even if police and prosecutors have never been contacted about domestic violence.
If a court finds that this law applies, then the accused parent may try to convince the judge that they should still have custody. However, this is an uphill battle that will require the parent to show they have taken specific steps to make sure no further violence happens.
The loss of legal custody is significant. A parent without legal custody has no decision-making authority over the child. The custodial parent may even choose to relocate, and the accused parent may find there is little they can do about it.
Courts may also in some situations limit the parenting time of the accused
California courts also have the authority in some situations to order supervised visits or other restrictions on parenting time if a parent is accused of domestic violence.
In particular, if the parent has had a restraining order issued against them, the court may take steps to protect both the victim and the child, and this can include limiting or denying visits.
If anything, this overview shows that when there are domestic violence accusations before, during or after a custody proceeding, parents should understand how their circumstances affect their legal rights and options.