Domestic Violence and Child Custody
Becoming a witness of domestic violence and growing up in such a volatile and disturbing family environment can have a dreadful impact on the psychological development of a child. Hence, the issue of child custody in situations that involve domestic violence is one of great important.
The US Department of Justice gives great importance towards protecting the rights of children who are exposed to domestic violence. Domestic violence in this context does not necessarily mean the child has actually seen physical abuse or witnessed domestic violence. It may encompass circumstances wherein the child is simply present in the home during an incident of domestic violence. Such type of abuse is commonly referred to as “secondary abuse.” In a California case known as In re Heather A., 60 Cal. Rptr. 2d 315, 322 (Ct. App. 1996) the court found that two children were exposed to domestic violence by virtue of being in the same home as their mother ho was physically abused by her boyfriend, even though the children were in another part of the house and did not actually witness the abuse. The two children were removed from the home and made dependents of the court upon a finding that the children were victims of secondary abuse.
Parents experiencing domestic violence within their family home are at risk of losing custody of their children. These children may be declared as dependants of the court, removed from the home, and taken into protective custody of Department of Social services. There are several means by which parents subjected to domestic violence can prevent losing custody of their children. The most important of these is to bring an end to such a violent relationship.
If you are involved in a relationship wherein domestic violence is present and children are involved, you would do well to consult an attorney in your jurisdiction to help you learn where you stand legally on the matter and what options are available to help protect you and your children.
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