How Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody?

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that one in three women in Utah will experience domestic violence, compared to one in four nationwide. Domestic violence is a severe problem that more people than just the victims. Each state implements laws to protect children from violent parents, especially when custody is in question.

Child Custody in Utah

In every custody case, Utah judges have to decide “legal custody,” or how both parties divide responsibilities regarding the child’s education, health, and general welfare. There is also “physical custody,” or the child’s residence, and how much time they will spend in each parent’s home.

When a Utah judge is determining legal and physical custody, they consider the following:

  • the wishes of the child
  • the wishes of the parents
  • the best interest of the child
  • the child’s relationship with each parent
  • Domestic violence, even if the child has not witnessed it.

What is Domestic Violence?

Utah law defines domestic violence as “any criminal offense involving violence or physical harm or threat of violence or physical harm, or any attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit a criminal offense involving violence or physical harm when committed by one cohabitant against another.” 

Impact of Domestic Violence

Utah courts begin custody decisions with the presumption that parents who have committed domestic violence repeatedly should not have custody of the child. Each parent is required to alert the court if any domestic violence, protective orders, or parental rights disputes happened in the past or present. If any party alleges child abuse, the court must order an investigation. The judge cannot award custody until the investigation has been completed.

Suppose that a judge finds that a parent has committed domestic violence. In this case, the judge can place a protective order in order to ensure the safety of the child and/or abused parent.

Termination

Utah courts may order a termination of parental rights in severe cases of abuse. A judge can terminate custody when:

  • a parent sexually abuses the child,
  • abuse to the child would risk the health of the child,
  • a parent tortures a child resulting in serious injury or attempts manslaughter on a child, or
  • a parent has committed murder.

If you have other domestic violence and child custody questions in Utah, contact an experienced child custody attorney from Burton Law and receive a free consultation today. 

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