In any family law dispute involving custody, the court’s primary concern is what is in the child’s best interest. While normally it is beneficial for a child to have ongoing contact with both parents, in cases involving domestic violence, the court may decline to grant a parent custody or visitation rights, unless the evidence demonstrates it should rule otherwise. In a recent California case, the court discussed what evidence is needed to demonstrate that a party has perpetrated domestic violence and that awarding custody to that party would be detrimental to a child. If you are immersed in a disagreement over custody that involves allegations of domestic violence, it is prudent to speak to a dedicated California child custody attorney to discuss what measures you may be able to take to safeguard the interests of you and your child.
Factual and Procedural History
It is reported that the mother met the father when she attended his karate class. She was thirteen at the time, and he was thirty-four. When the mother turned eighteen, they married and shortly thereafter had a daughter. The mother filed for divorce when the child was eighteen months old. The mother sought sole legal and physical custody of the daughter with limited visitation rights awarded to the father, alleging that the father had sexually molested her when she was a minor and routinely engaged in acts of domestic violence against the mother, in the form of stalking and verbal assault.
Allegedly, the court found that there was insufficient evidence that the father perpetrated acts of domestic violence and awarded the father joint custody, ordering a schedule that would allow him to have physical custody approximately thirty percent of the time. The mother appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion in finding that the father should be granted custody rights.