It's important to know that the occurrence of child abuse or domestic violence can have a direct effect on any child custody case in Los Angeles County. Typically, the family law court will consider your child custody case to be a domestic violence case if they discover you were convicted of a domestic violence related crime against your spouse or child within the last 5 years.
In addition to any domestic violence criminal related issues, parents who abuse or neglect their child could lose custody. It's important to note that child abuse doesn't have to be significant for a parent to lose visitation or custody rights.
In fact, Los Angeles County family law courts will consider any behavior by a parent that threatens their child's physical or emotional well-being as abuse.
Child abuse includes a wide range of behavior, including verbal abuse causing emotional trauma and physical abuse causing bruises or scratches. Neglect is another type of child abuse.
This occurs in situations when a parent fails or refuses to provide their child with daily basic needs. For example, child neglect includes failure to feed, bathe, or provide medical care for a child over a period of time.
Judges will consider any type of child abuse seriously as they are vulnerable and can't protect themselves. It's true that parental rights are constitutionally protected, but a child's best interests are ALWAYS the main objective in any child custody decision.
Any parent who abuses their kids could lose some, or even all, of their parental rights. A major question to be answered on any type of child custody decision where there is alleged abuse is the type and severity of abuse and how long ago it occurred.
There is simply no way to get around the fact that all judges will make custody decisions on what they believe is in the child's best interest. They don't care if it's the father or the mother, they are obligated to protect the children.
Proving Your Child Has Been Abused
It's important to note that if you are making allegations of child abuse against your spouse, you will need more than just circumstantial evidence. You may need relatives, family friends, or neighbors who were witnesses to the abuse to testify at a child custody hearing. In addition, you could use medical records from your child's doctor or therapist at the hearing. They will also consider if there is a history of the court issuing a restraining order or protective order against a spouse.
As stated above, any evidence of a history of domestic violence against you or other siblings could be relevant information for the court. In most cases, you will need supporting testimony from some type of expert or counselor about your child's mental health to be able to convince the court of both past and potential harm in the future.
If you are planning a divorce and you believe child abuse issues may be involved in the court deciding custody, you need to consult with the Los Angeles divorce attorneys at Furman & Zavatsky LLP. Our lawyers will need to thoroughly review all the specific details in order to plan an effective strategy.
How Will Child Abuse Impact My Custody Case?
If you are divorced or are interested in getting divorced in Los Angeles County and your spouse or ex-spouse has been convicted of child abuse, it is possible that a court will deny you child custody rights and/or unsupervised visitation rights.
The court will determine the best interests of your minor child, and child abuse weighs heavily against a person when seeking custody. The specific violations that are considered child abuse are codified in the California Penal Code as:
- California Penal Code Section 273a, which prohibits infliction of unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering upon a minor;
- California Penal Code Section 273d, which prohibits infliction of cruel or inhuman corporal punishment upon a minor; and
- California Penal Code Section 647.6, which prohibits annoying or molestation a minor.
If you or your spouse have been convicted of any of these child abuse violations, there is a presumption that it is not in your child's best interests to live with the abusive parent. Judges have little discretion to award custody to the abusive parent in a divorce, although an exception exists and is outlined below.
However, it's very important to note that nobody really wins in a child abuse case.
In fact, both parents could be at risk of losing custody rights if one parent was aware of the abuse and did nothing to prevent it. For example, if a non-abusive parent knew the other parent was sexually abusing a child and stood by doing nothing, the child could be removed from the home.
In some cases, the Los Angeles County Child Protective Services will get involved and might place the child in foster care or with relatives. If a judge is able to determine abuse is likely to occur again in the future, they could permanently terminate the abusive parent's child custody rights.
In other words, as we have extensively discussed, the judge will always decide child custody cases in what they believe is in best interest of the child.
A Person Living with My Spouse Has Been Convicted of Child Abuse and is a Registered Sex Offender
If your spouse has not been convicted of child abuse, but your spouse is living in the same household with a person who has been convicted of child abuse and is a registered sex offender, the court will be unlikely to grant your spouse custody rights of your minor child.
The court will consider the danger of placing a child in a home with a child abuser, and this will weigh heavily against a person when determining child custody.
If such a situation has arisen, it is important to speak with our Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys immediately to bring this issue in front of the Judge before any harm befalls your child. A judge will often be willing to remove a child from a home with a child abuser in it and place the child in a safer residence.
Does My Spouse who was Convicted of Child Abuse Have Any Parental Rights?
Conviction of child abuse does not automatically terminate all parental rights. Its impact is mainly on child custody. A judge can still grant visitation rights to the non-custodial spouse, although those visitation rights will most likely be supervised visitation rights. The non-custodial spouse will also be able to make important life decisions on behalf of your children when deemed appropriate by the court.
If I have Been Convicted of Child Abuse is it Still Possible to Get Custody of My Minor Child?
While a judge generally cannot grant custody to a parent or other person convicted of child abuse, there are certain situations where a judge has the authority to grant either sole or joint custody to that person. To get custody of a minor child, the parent convicted of child abuse must demonstrate the following by a preponderance of the evidence:
- That granting custody to the abusive parent is in the best interests of the minor child;
- That the abusive parent has completed a 52-week batterer intervention program;
- That the abusive parent has completed substance abuse counseling and/or a parenting class if the court has ordered either one or both;
- That the abusive parent has not violated probation, parole, or any restraining order; and
- That the abusive parent has not committed any further domestic violence since fulfilling the above requirements.
If you have been convicted of child abuse in Los Angeles, and you want either sole or joint custody of your minor child, it is imperative that you speak with our Los Angeles child custody lawyers. Our experienced legal team will review your potential eligibility for custody and will fulfill the above requirements to help prove, by a preponderance of the evidence that custody is in your child's best interests.
Call our Los Angeles Child Custody Attorneys to Discuss Your Legal Options
If you are seeking to prevent a spouse or other person from getting custody rights of your minor child due to a child abuse conviction, or if you have been convicted of child abuse and are seeking custody of your minor child, it is advisable to seek legal advice.
There are many factors that must be considered when the court makes the ultimate determination as to how to award custody of your minor children. When your child's welfare is on the line, it is essential that you speak to experienced attorneys who can ensure that your rights are advocated for. Contact our Los Angeles child custody lawyers at 818-528-3471 to make sure your custody rights are protected.
Furman & Zavatsky LLP
Divorce and Family Law Attorneys
15821 Ventura Blvd. #690
Encino, CA 91436