Victims of domestic violence have an elevated set of concerns when considering divorce and child custody. Here, the family law attorneys at Snee, Lutche, Helmlinger & Spielberger provide information for victims of domestic violence who are attempting to obtain child custody.
You May Be Able to Obtain an Emergency Protective Order
If you have decided to leave the home of an abusive spouse or partner, and are taking your children with you, it is critical to obtain an emergency protective order—one that both orders your spouse or partners to stay away from you, and gives you temporary custody of your children. Otherwise, you may be accused of kidnapping. Also note that an emergency protective order is temporary, and a long-term plan for the custody of your children will have to be determined as a part of child custody and divorce proceedings.
Domestic Violence Allegations Often Impact Child Custody Proceedings
Domestic violence allegations are taken very seriously by family courts, and often have an impact on child custody proceedings. This may be true even if the violence was not directed at or in front of minor children. In Maryland, a court will not grant custody until each parent has notified the court of any proceedings related to domestic violence, protective orders or termination of parental rights of another child. The court must then determine whether the allegations are factual, and if found to be true, the abuser will not be awarded physical custody or unsupervised visitation—unless there is no likelihood of the parent committing abuse in the future.
A Domestic Abuser May Be Awarded Supervised Visitation
Although a convicted domestic abuser may not be awarded physical custody or unsupervised visitation, supervised visitation is not uncommon, should the judge believe that the child’s safety can be ensured. Supervised visitation allows the parent and child to visit while under the watch of a neutral third party, such as an off-duty police officer or social worker. If the facts of the situation change, and the parent becomes a harm to the child, a judge may prohibit all contact between them.
Extreme Cases May Allow for Termination of Rights
In extreme cases of domestic violence—chronic abuse or neglect, sexual abuse or torture, for example—the abuser’s parental rights may be terminated by a judge immediately, without an attempt of supervised visitation. If you have experienced extreme domestic violence, it is critical to immediately contact emergency services, the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence or another anti-domestic violence agency.
After Seeking a Safe Haven, Contact Your Family Law Attorney
In cases of domestic violence, it is valuable and critical to begin divorce proceedings as rapidly as possible. After safely leaving the residence of your abuser, contact a qualified divorce attorney, who can assist you in obtaining an emergency protective order, filing for divorce and more. The compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys at Snee, Lutche and Helmlinger are dedicated to assisting all spouses in the midst of a divorce, especially those who have been impacted by domestic violence. If you are a victim of domestic violence and wish to seek a divorce, contact us immediately.