What a Judge Looks for in a Child Custody Case Involving Family Violence

What a Judge Looks for in a Child Custody Case Involving Family Violence

When considering what judges look for in child custody cases involving family violence, the primary focus is on the child’s safety and well-being. Judges scrutinize evidence of abuse or violence, assess each parent’s capability to offer a stable and nurturing environment, and take into account the child’s preferences, based on their age and maturity.

The overarching goal is to ensure the best interests of the child, placing them in a secure and loving setting. This approach is fundamental in such sensitive legal matters, ensuring the protection and care of children in these challenging circumstances.

What a Judge Looks for in a Child Custody Case Involving Family Violence: An Overview

Suppose you’ve read through the blog posts on our website for a long enough period. In that case, I’m willing to bet that you have come across a post where we have suggested that you try to put yourself in the shoes of your child’s other parent or your ex-spouse or whatever person is on the opposite side in your family law case. Seeing things from a different perspective can cause you to understand their positions and may even eliminate the need to move forward with a legal case altogether.

One person’s shoes that I cannot recall that we have ever suggested for you to look at a case from their vantage point is a judge. Maybe we haven’t done this because no attorney at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, has ever served as a judge. For whatever reason we have not done so, I think it is a big mistake. Ultimately the judge is the person that will be deciding your case if you and the opposing party are unable to work out a settlement before needing to go to a trial.

The purpose of today’s blog post is to examine a family law from the vantage point of the judge. Specifically, I would like to look at child custody cases that involve circumstances where a physical or emotional injury could occur in your child.

These are some of the more complex cases for a judge to issue a ruling on and ones where your child’s best interests need to be considered more than anything. A judge will need to review all the evidence submitted to them, make an educated guess as to whether or not abuse or neglect is likely to occur, and make decisions that place the child’s safety at the forefront.

The Effect of Violence on the Life of a Child

Children who witness violence in the home are likely to be impacted on a long-term basis. The tricky part for a judge to determine is how those circumstances have potentially impacted that child. When your spouse is abusing you, your child sees that they are now under the control of fear that your abusive spouse has laid upon you.

Whether your child has been the victim of abuse or has witnessed it occur to you or another family member, a judge will need to figure out what levels of protection to provide to your child. It is not a simple process to determine the extent of the damage that has been done to your child from witnessing abuse.

A judge can gather only so much about a child who is not physically before them in the courtroom. The judge will be relying upon the evidence presented by both parties to your case.

What Behaviors Might a Child Who Has Suffered Abuse Display?

What a Judge Looks for in a Child Custody Case Involving Family Violence

Again, all children are different, and all children display emotions in unique ways. From my experience in handling family law cases, I have observed that children who suffer abuse often behave better around the abusive parent and may even act more amicably towards them.

“Amicable” might not be the precise term, but these children might tell the nonabusive parent they prefer the abusive one. If a child appears uneasy without the abusive parent nearby, it often indicates ongoing abuse.

What Exactly Do the Child’s Best Interests Mean in a Family Law Case?

In child custody cases with family violence, judges prioritize the child’s safety and well-being. While some advocate for keeping families together, judges recognize that staying with an abusive parent can be detrimental to a child. The key is determining if the nonabusive parent can offer a safer, nurturing environment.

Supervised visitation with the abusive parent may be considered to maintain parental bonds without compromising the child’s safety. This option is only viable if it poses no risk of further harm.

Judges are cautious with ongoing abuse cases, potentially restricting or prohibiting visitation rights of the abusive parent to protect the child. This approach involves scrutinizing the nature, frequency, and impact of the abuse, considering the child’s age and potential future harm.

The legal definition of abuse varies, and judges apply their discretion in interpreting these situations on a case-by-case basis. Their decisions aim to serve the child’s best interests, ensuring their safety and emotional well-being are paramount.

What Does “Abuse” Actually Mean, and How Will a Judge Identify It?

Physical violence is not the only definition of abuse relevant in a family law case. Abuse is the physical manifestation of the desire to control the behaviors of another person. Your child’s other parent seeks to control you and your child’s behaviors by acting abusively.

Physical, emotional, or sexual means can enact violence in the home. Some instances of violence might be sporadic or impulsive, but often, perpetrators plan them to gain control over their circumstances.

The judge overseeing your case might consider a single incident of physical abuse significant and could order your spouse to have only supervised visits with your child. This decision stands until your spouse completes counseling and anger management classes.

In some situations, a judge may view a one-time outburst as an isolated incident and not predictive of any future violence. I would expect that most judges would take any violence very seriously in the home, whether or not it was against your child or not. It is not a stretch to say that violence against you as a spouse could quickly become violence against your child as well.

The big thing to consider is that no matter what your judge says in the initial stages of your divorce or child custody case about family violence and risks to your child, the actions of an abusive spouse will affect how a court ultimately rules on custody, visitation, possession, and access. If your spouse does not take the judge seriously and does not address their issues with anger and abuse, they will almost surely lose much of their right to have your child after the family law case has concluded.

More on How Judges View Abuse in Family Law Cases in Our Blog Post

What a Judge Looks for in a Child Custody Case Involving Family Violence

Thank you for taking an interest in this subject. As I mentioned at the outset of this blog post, the only person whose opinion on your family law case matters is the judge. As a result, I think having an understanding of a judge’s likely approach to your case is essential. Please stay tuned tomorrow to learn more.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about family law in Texas, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week to take your call and arrange a free of charge consultation for you in our office.

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