Current law states that custody should be granted according to the best interest of the child. It is the public policy of California to assure that the health, safety, and welfare of children is the court’s primary concern in determining the best interest of the child when making custody or visitation orders. Family Code § 3020 (a) The order of preference is to grant custody to both parents jointly or to either parent. Family Code § 3041(1)
Effective January 1, 2000, Family Code § 3044 is added to provide:
In a child custody proceeding, if the court finds that a party seeking custody has perpetrated domestic violence against the other party seeking custody, or against the child or child’s siblings within the previous five years, there is a rebuttable presumption that an award of sole or joint physical or joint legal custody to that party is detrimental to the best interest of the child.
Perpetrated domestic violence means intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, or sexual assault; or placing a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or another; or engaging in such behavior as threatening, striking, harassing or destroying personal property or disturbing the peace of another.
The presumption does not apply where both parents are perpetrators of domestic violence.
To overcome this presumption, the court shall consider whether the perpetrator has successfully completed a batterer’s treatment program, alcohol or drug abuse counseling, or parenting classes. The court shall also consider whether the perpetrator has demonstrated, by a preponderance of the evidence, that custody to the perpetrator is in the best interest of the child. If the perpetrator is on probation or parole, the court will consider if he or she is in compliance with its terms and conditions. The court will also consider if the perpetrator has committed any further acts of domestic violence.
For more information and assistance for child and adult victims of domestic violence, you may call “Children’s Institute International” at (213) 385-5100.
Other important emergency telephone numbers are:
Los Angeles County Child Abuse Hotline (800) 540-4000
Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women (213) 626-3393
Los Angeles Rape and battering Hotline (310) 392-8381
Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law (213) 939-2174
Korean American Family Services Center (213) 389-6755
LA Association Barristers Domestic Violence
Restraining Order Project (213) 624-3665