Domestic violence and child custody

If there's a history of domestic violence in a family, judges use special laws to help protect children when making decisions about child custody. 

Domestic violence can be emotional, financial, or physical

Under the law, domestic violence can be emotional, financial, or physical. It can happen anywhere, including online. Abuse can happen in different ways, including someone stopping you from getting money or basic needs, or isolating you from friends or family. 

Child custody 

There are two types of child custody

  • Physical custody: The person that the child lives with on a regular basis.
  • Legal custody: The right for a person to make important decisions about the child’s health care, education, and welfare.

For both types of custody, parents can share custody (joint custody) or one parent can have full custody (sole custody). A judge grants custody based on what's in the best interest of a child.

Judges must use a special law to decide on child custody in domestic violence cases

If there's been domestic violence in your family, special laws apply when a judge makes a decision about who gets custody of your children. Which law applies depends on when the domestic violence happened and if a court was involved. 

  • If there was a conviction for domestic violence or a restraining order 

    If a parent has been convicted or committed domestic violence for an incident that happened in the last five years, then a law called "3044" applies. This law requires a judge to go through a detailed decision-making process before giving an abusive parent custody of a child. 

     

    This usually means that the judge grants the non-abusive parent sole legal and physical custody of the child. The parent who committed the abuse can still get some visitation with the child.

    Get more information on "3044."

    More information about "3044" in other languages. 
    Get a Family code section handout in:  
  • If one parent accuses the other parent of domestic violence

    If a parent accuses the other parent of domestic violence, the judge must consider the allegation and decide what custody order would be best for the child. If the judge gives any custody or unsupervised visits to the parent accused of domestic violence, the judge must clearly explain the reasons for doing so.

     

    If you want the judge to know about domestic violence in your case, you can write a statement on form MC-030 and file it with the court.

Talk to a legal professional if there's been domestic violence in your family. 

Your local  Self-Help Center can give you free legal information. Or, you can talk to a lawyer.
 
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