The New Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody and Visitation


For many years Family Code Section §3020 instructed the court that “it is the public policy of this state to ensure that the health, safety, and welfare of children shall be the court’s primary concern in determining the best interests of children when making any orders regarding the physical or legal custody or visitation of children”. At the beginning of 2019, the California legislature added a new law amending Family Code §3020 to include “… children have the right to be safe and free from abuse, and that the perpetration of child abuse or domestic violence in a household where a child resides is detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of the child”.

Tangential to the new declaration is there is no requirement to obtain a domestic violence restraining order to prove there is abuse in the household. Similarly, the individual accused of perpetrating domestic violence does not have to be criminally convicted. If evidence is proffered and admitted by the court that there is abuse in the household, according to the language of the statute, that is enough to influence a custody decision by the court.

In essence, if the court determines domestic violence or child abuse has occurred, the court can deny or restrict custody or visitation to the abusive parent in order to preserve the health, safety, and welfare of the child as prescribed by Family Code Sections §3044 and §3011. It should also be noted that the determination of custody or visitation based upon findings of child abuse or domestic violence “… may only be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence” and when proven to serve the best interests of the child, per Family Code Section §3044.

The new legal implications of domestic violence on child custody and visitation also affect child support and can impact spousal support as well. To speak with an experienced attorney about these or other family law issues contact The Reape-Rickett Law Firm at 888-851-1611.

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