Providing Compassionate, Intelligent Counsel

How does domestic violence affect child custody decisions?

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2024 | Child Custody |

As a parent, your natural instinct is to protect your child and ensure they grow up in a safe and nurturing environment.

In line with this, California courts, when making child custody decisions, prioritize the child’s health, safety and welfare—considerations that become even more critical in cases involving domestic violence.

The effects of domestic violence on court decisions

In California, there is a legal assumption that granting an abusive parent custody is harmful to the best interests of the child. Here’s how domestic violence can influence these decisions:

  • Safety first: California law prioritizes the safety of children. If the other parent has a history of domestic violence, the court presumes that awarding custody to this parent is harmful to the child’s well-being.
  • Evidence matters: The court will consider your documentation of instances of abuse, including police reports, protective orders and testimonies from domestic violence shelters.
  • Rehabilitative measures: The abusive parent might gain some custodial rights if they can demonstrate successful completion of a batterer’s treatment program, abstain from alcohol and drug abuse and comply with the terms of the restraining order or probation.

The abusive parent must provide evidence to reverse this presumption and demonstrate their capability to provide a safe environment for the child. If a parent continues their abusive behavior, they may lose their parental rights in extreme cases.

Ensuring your child’s safety

To ensure your child’s safety amid domestic violence, you may seek help from a legal professional and obtain a restraining order or a protective order.

The restraining order restricts the abusive parent’s access to the child. It would help if you documented every violent incident, which is crucial as it plays a significant role in custody proceedings. Remember that you are not alone and there are ways to effectively protect your child’s well-being.


FindLaw Network