Can I Lose Custody Of My Kids If I Am Accused Of Domestic Violence?

The Impact Of Domestic Violence Charges On Child Custody

Domestic violence is a frequent factor in Arizona divorce cases. In many situations, the result of the divorce case will hinge on whether the accusations of domestic violence are found to be true. While many accusations of domestic violence in divorce cases are found to be true, sometimes the allegations are false. Even false allegations can drag out a divorce case. The situation can become especially frustrating and emotionally charged if there are child custody arrangements that need to be determined as part of the divorce process. If you are facing accusations of domestic violence, you are probably worried about losing custody of your children and facing criminal charges. Guidance and representation from an experienced Phoenix family law attorney will help you to be fully aware of your rights and options.

The Impact Of Domestic Violence Charges On Child Custody

Domestic Violence Allegations In Divorce Cases

In Arizona, courts take allegations of domestic violence very seriously. Many people make the assumption that any kind of bad, rude, or angry behavior is considered to be domestic violence, but in fact, the state law holds a specific definition of domestic violence. Even terrible behavior or actions may not be considered domestic violence in a legal sense if they do not meet the legal qualifications of the following:

  • Murder, such as negligent homicide, manslaughter, first and second murder
  • Threats
  • Intimidation
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Assault, including aggravated assault and sexual assault
  • Custodial interference
  • Interfering with judicial proceedings
  • Kidnapping or endangerment
  • Abuse of a child or vulnerable adult
  • Unlawful imprisonment
  • Preventing the use of a telephone 
  • Unlawful disclosure of photos that depict nudity or sexual activity
  • Photography, videotaping, or other recording that is not disclosed or consented to by the other person
  • Criminal trespass, criminal damage, and disorderly conduct

Additionally, although parties in divorce lawsuits frequently utilize expert testimony from counselors or therapists in an attempt to prove domestic violence, only the court can determine whether specific behaviors constitute domestic violence in a legal sense, because it is a conclusion of law and not a matter of opinion. This means that even reprehensible actions will not necessarily be considered domestic violence in the courtroom if they do not meet the legal definition of domestic violence. Emotional abuse can be especially difficult to prove or quantify before the court.

Consequences Of Domestic Violence

There are many physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of domestic violence, whether that violence takes the form of physical or emotional abuse. But when domestic violence allegations occur in a divorce case, they may be pursued with civil or criminal charges. If convicted, the violent spouse will face a variety of consequences.

Domestic violence is prosecuted as the worst type of misdemeanor. The abusive partner is likely to be punished with a combination of jail time, probation, community service, mandatory counseling and/or anger management courses, and fines. Protective orders and restraining orders are extremely common. In Arizona, a person convicted of domestic violence will lose the right to own a firearm. There are social consequences as well, which can include being ordered by the court out of your home, rejection from family and friends, loss employment, and loss of professional licensure. 

Child Custody & Accusations Of Domestic Violence

Parents who are accused of domestic violence, whether rightly or falsely, are naturally concerned about whether they will lose custody of their children as a result. Domestic violence accusations are divided into two categories: significant and non-significant. The severity is determined by the circumstances, but if there are many acts of non-significant domestic violence, the sheer number of incidents may result in the violence being considered significant. 

Arizona law requires that the non-violent parent receive full custody of minor children involved in the divorce case, unless the abusive parent can sufficiently prove with their Arizona domestic violence lawyer that joint custody is in the best interest of the child(ren). If the court finds that significant domestic violence has taken place, joint legal custody cannot be ordered. However, if there is a less significant amount of domestic violence, or if the allegations are unfounded, state law does enable rebuttal and may provide joint custody of the child(ren).

It’s important to realize that accusations of domestic violence put the burden of proof onto the accusing partner. In some cases, allegations may be found to be untrue or cannot be sufficiently proven, in which case child custody determinations will rely on other circumstances in the situation. Working with an Glendale family law lawyer is imperative to protect your rights and innocence.

This article is courtesy of VS Attorney, a leading Arizona law firm specializing in criminal defense, including extensive experience with domestic violence allegations. 


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