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How Is Custody Affected by Domestic Violence After Divorce?

Domestic violence after divorce can impact an existing child custody order. The terms of the child custody order can get changed in response to domestic violence. A North Carolina child custody lawyer can answer your questions about how custody is affected by domestic violence after divorce.

Who Could Be Subject to a Domestic Violence Order

In North Carolina, a person can request a protective order if they are the victim of domestic violence perpetrated by a current or former spouse or romantic partner, grandparent, current or former member of the household, or a person who shares a child with the victim. Orders of protection are available for adults or children who are the victims of domestic violence.

In North Carolina, domestic violence can include threats to harm the person, sexual assault, or bodily injury from physical violence. When you combine any of these three actions with the required relationship of the abuser and victim, the situation could be a candidate for an order of protection from domestic violence. When a domestic violence order gets entered after a divorce, an existing child custody order could get modified as a result. 

How Domestic Violence Can Change the Custody Terms

Domestic violence after divorce can impact both custody and visitation terms. Let’s say that divorced parents have 50/50 custody of their child. Here are several scenarios that explain how a domestic violence order of protection can affect the existing child custody order: 

  • One of the parents gets a domestic violence order entered against them for abusing the child. The terms of the existing child custody arrangements would likely get altered so that, at least temporarily, the child would no longer live with the abusive parent. If visitation were to get ordered, it would probably be supervised visitation. Depending on the facts of the situation, it is possible that the domestic violence could result in a termination of that parent’s parental rights to this child.
  • One of the parents assaulted the other parent at a custody exchange. The assault resulted in significant bodily injury to that parent. The terms of the existing child custody arrangements could get altered to grant the non-violent parent sole physical custody of the child with supervised visitation, no visitation, or termination of the parental rights of the parent who assaulted the other parent.
  • Sometimes the domestic violence does not get committed by either parent, but by someone in their household, another friend or relative, a romantic partner, or someone to whom one of the parents entrusted the child. If the court finds that the parent knew about the risk of abuse to the child and did not take reasonable measures to protect the child from that harm, that parent could lose their custody and possibly visitation, if not parental rights. 

Also, child custody orders can get modified as a practical matter if one of the parents goes to jail or prison for their conduct. The judge handling the child custody order would need to be aware of any such incarceration. The ultimate guiding principle for the judge will be entering a custody order that serves the best interest of the child, including the child’s safety. You will want to talk to a North Carolina child custody lawyer if you find yourself in one of these situations or anticipate the possibility of domestic violence. Get in touch with our office today for help with your case.