When it comes to family law, there is no more upsetting and dangerous circumstance than ones that involve domestic violence. In many cases, domestic violence affects more than the victim. Families and children often become caught up in the terror, and their lives are torn apart emotionally and mentally.
Kids are helpless in protecting themselves, and courts will protect the minor and do what’s in their best interest.
Domestic Violence Overview
The sad truth is that many domestic violence victims do not realize they are in an abusive relationship unless they are physically harmed. It also includes harassment, mental abuse, threats, stalking, threatening calls in addition to physical abuse.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you should seek safety as soon as possible with a trusted friend or family member. From there, an attorney can help you obtain a protective order. This is an essential step because your children can be included under the legal safety umbrella of that order, and the courts may grant you temporary child custody.
It’s important to know that you are not alone, and there are resources available to get you through this difficult process. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers a free, confidential phone number and online chat feature available 24/7, where you can speak to someone to get help, identify abuse, or plan for safety.
Domestic Violence and Child Custody
In Missouri, there are five variations of custody arrangements:
Joint physical and legal custody – This is when both parents have physical and legal custody of the child.
Joint physical custody and sole legal custody – This is when both parents have physical custody of the child, but only one parent has legal custody of the child. Meaning only one parent can make important, long-term decisions regarding the child.
Joint legal custody and sole physical custody – This is when both parents are involved in making important decisions regarding the child, but only one parent has physical custody of the child.
Sole legal and physical custody – This is when only one parent has both the child's legal and physical custody.
Third-party custody – This is when neither parent is awarded custody. Rather, custody of the child goes to a third party (example: grandparents).
When custody cases are presented to a judge, he or she’s priority is the health, safety, and welfare of that child when making a decision. With that being said, the judge will consider if one parent has abused or neglected the other parent among additional factors because it endangers the child.
Evidence of domestic violence is key in these cases. These are not light matters, and when there are abuse allegations, courts will offer the accused party to refute the assumption of domestic violence. Judges understand that some parents fabricate allegations to gain an advantage in custody proceedings, which is why a proper defense is critical.
They will also generally consider:
Whether the alleged instances of domestic violence affected or were directed at the child
Whether the accused continues to pose a danger to the child or the other parent
The severity and frequency of domestic abuse
Whether there's a pending criminal case against the accused
Any physical evidence of abuse, including photographs
Police reports documenting incidents of alleged abuse
These incidents can impact all aspects of child custody determinations, including visitation and parental rights.
We Are On Your Side
We understand that your priority is the wellbeing of your children. As you go through this difficult process, you’ll need a family law attorney who cares and advocates for you and your family. Facing an abuser can be a terrifying experience, and we will help you get protection and the best custody arrangement.
Contact our Columbia child custody and domestic violence attorneys today at (573) 279-1349 to schedule a consultation.