Child Custody Factors: How Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody

Domestic violence can happen in many ways from the physical abuse to the mental and emotional, even economic abuse can also be classified as such. And the grim reality is that it is an ongoing problem that has been affecting many families in the United States, even to this day. In fact, 1 out of 3 families has suffered from some form of abuse in their homes.

Regardless of what form of domestic abuse it is, one thing’s for certain and that it always traumatize the victims – which is also a factor that courts consider, especially when dealing with child custody.

Read more as we’re going to discuss how does domestic violence affect child custody in today’s post.


Domestic Violence Defined

Sadly, it’s very common for victims to associate domestic violence with physical abuse that don’t realize they’ve already been abused until it’s too late. That’s why it’s important to understand what it means, especially in the state of California.

Basically, domestic abuse is defined as:

  • Purposely inflicting or causing bodily injuries.
  • Sexually assaulting
  • Intentionally inducing reasonable fear to another person by threating to cause bodily harm.
  • Any other actions (stalking, harassment, threats, unwanted phone calls, physical assault) that might otherwise cause the court to issue domestic violence restraining orders.

How It Becomes A Factor When Talking About The Custody Of The Child

Child custody can be awarded to one parent (sole) or both parents (joint), and there are 2 types of custody, the physical and legal.

Physical custody states the place where the child will live and which parent will provide basic care. On the other hand, legal custody refers to the right that a parent has to guide the child in making major life decisions.

Domestic violence becomes a factor when talking about the custody of a child because it can negatively affect the child’s well-being. That is why under California law the judges are required to consider domestic violence when determining the physical and legal custody to ensure the health and welfare of the child and give what it best for them.

Also, courts must look into a parent’s possible history of abuse as this can also affect the child’s overall development.


Court judges are obliged to grant visitation right to parents unless it will not be in the best interest of the child. And since it’s not advisable for the child to be exposed in acts of domestic violence, the court can provide protection by allowing supervised visits with a third party or prohibiting overnight visits.

In the same way, supervised visitation is also ordered by the judge when a victim pursues a protective order. In this scenario, the victim is awarded temporary custody of the child and the judge is encouraged by law to issue a permanent order that’s consistent with the protective order once the case for custody is opened.

Lastly, in rare cases where both parents are extremely abusive to the child, their custody rights to the child are terminated. And if this happens, their rights are permanently waived and cannot be regained anymore.

Learn more about California’s child custody laws by clicking on this link.