The Impact of Domestic Violence on Custody in Divorce
When couples with children divorce in Missouri, the courts generally prefer shared physical and legal custody so that each parent can share equally in decision-making and in the raising of the kids to the largest extent possible. But when there is a history of domestic violence (DV) in families, shared living arrangements and decision-making authority can be devastating, and sole custody is often sought.
Fighting for Sole Custody
When dealing with a violent spouse, it is often difficult to stand up and fight for yourself and your kids. Survivors of abuse frequently fear that their abusive partner will wind up lying in court in order to discredit them as parents. Could that lead to a survivor of domestic violence losing custody all together? Would it be better to avoid crossing a controlling partner and fueling their rage and revenge? While not every attorney is familiar with these situations, At Courtney & Mills, our experienced divorce and custody attorneys can help you to obtain a safe, loving environment for you and your children where your abuser has limited, if any, access.
Best Interests of the Child
Missouri courts always must act in the best interests of the children involved in custody cases. Generally speaking, having two loving and supportive parents is beneficial to kids, which is why joint custody is the preferred norm. However, when one parent is abusive and dangerous, the court must weigh the information presented in making a custody decision. That means victims of abuse have to present strong—if not irrefutable—evidence of previous abuse and its impact on the family.
What Constitutes Proof?
Evidence of abuse can come in many forms. While some is more weighty than others, anything shared with the court will be considered as custody determinations are made. If possible, assemble the following pieces of evidence:
- Police records showing law enforcement has been called to address violence;
- Medical records documenting physical harm suffered by survivors;
- Photographs of injuries sustained due to abuse;
- Journal entries or calendar entries documenting abuse;
- Testimony from teachers, neighbors, etc. indicating suspicions or instances of abuse;
- Pictures of items destroyed or of the home in disarray following violent episodes;
- Digital evidence of threats;
- Copies of protective orders issued;
- Pictures of weapons used against you by your abuser.
When Courts Find DV Has Occurred
Children and parents who have survived domestic violence must be protected, and the court will order a custody arrangement that seeks to do just that. The court must offer findings of fact and legal explanations for its final decision, which could include supervised visitation, public custody exchanges, or, in some cases, no contact with the abusive parent at all. On the other hand, the possibility for shared custody is always in play. That’s why it’s so important to provide the court with as much proof of the abuse as possible.
Working for You
At Courtney & Mills, our dedicated Springfield child custody attorneys always fight for the best possible outcomes for you. To discuss your situation, schedule a confidential consultation in our Springfield office today.