The Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody Hearings

Westfield NJ Child Custody AttorneysChild Custody is amongst the most important if not the most important considerations for many unmarried parents or parents going through a divorce. When domestic violence is a factor as well, the stakes are raised even higher. For our clients, the best interests of the children always takes priority number one.

Child custody judgements will certainly weigh a history of child abuse or other forms of domestic violence. If either parent has been proven guilty of domestic abuse, their custody may be limited or even stripped. This may also be true if false accusations of domestic violence have been made by either parent.

At the end of the day, judges are trying to determine if the parents are able to provide a safe, secure, and loving environment for their children.

Westfield Child Custody Attorney Identifies Domestic Violence

Domestic violence may only be seriously considered in a child custody hearing if a judge sees proof of the offenses in question. There are two primary possibilities: either a criminal conviction of domestic violence or the granting of a permanent restraining order against the accused parent. Permanent restraining orders are only granted after a civil court hearing is held at the county Superior Court Family Division.

In order to be found guilty of domestic violence in either civil or criminal court, an offender must be found to have committed one of the following acts:

  • Harassment (a large percentage of cases involve harassment due to the relatively relaxed definition)
  • Homicide
  • Assault
  • Terroristic Threats
  • Kidnapping
  • Criminal Restraint
  • False Imprisonment
  • Sexual Assault
  • Criminal Sexual Contact
  • Lewdness
  • Criminal Mischief
  • Burglary
  • Criminal Trespass
  • Stalking

On the other hand, if a civil or criminal hearing was held and the evidence showed the innocence of the accused party, that may be considered as well. False accusations are taken very seriously as black marks against a parent’s character and mental fitness.

How Do Domestic Violence Charges Influence Child Custody Hearings in Union County, NJ?

Before issuing any decisions on child custody proceedings, judges review a litany of factors including parents’ living situation, income, relationship with the child, convenience, and more. It is the stated position of the courts that their first priority providing the best possible situation for the children, and that involves keeping both parents involved if possible.

When domestic violence is an issue, judges may also consider the following:

  • Was a final restraining order ever granted? If so, is it still in effect?
  • Were criminal charges ever filed against the accused? If so, what was the result of the criminal proceedings?
  • Against whom were the violent acts committed? All acts of violence are taken seriously, but violence against the other parent(s) or children is especially damaging
  • Does the accused have any other record of criminal wrongdoing?
  • What was the exact nature of the abusive behavior? Was it habitual or one-off?

Finally, the court will strive to determine whether the accused is a threat to the safety and wellbeing of the child or other family members. If there is any question to this, there may be available alternatives such as monitored visitation time.

Contact A Linden Child Custody and Domestic Violence Attorney Today

Offering Confidential Family Law Consultations

Edward S. Cooper is an experienced family law attorney who understands that all child custody disputes can be contentious. He believes in handling each client’s unique set of circumstances with the empathy and respect that is needed when going through such a stressful time. Lean on the experience and knowledge he has accumulated through successfully resolving child custody disputes for clients throughout New Jersey, including towns like Westfield, Elizabeth, Plainfield, Union, Scotch Plains, Linden, and all of Union County. 

Contact our firm online or call our Linden offices by dialing (908) 481-4625 today to speak with a member of our legal staff concerning your child custody dispute involving accusations of domestic violence. We will be interested to hear the details of your situation and to find out how we can best serve your individual needs and concerns.