Here, learn about the impact of family violence on custody and visitation and how evidence of abuse can be used to modify existing orders. Courts can limit access, communication, and exchange arrangements to ensure the child's safety.
The other parent has been violent toward me; how does that affect conservatorship rights and visitation?
Any history of family violence should be addressed when a custody and visitation order is made. Once a final order is made, it may be difficult to bring up domestic violence again in the future. However, new instances of family violence may be grounds for modification of an existing order. Evidence can be provided to the court to show the judge the extent of domestic violence that has occurred and its effects on the child. This allows the court to create orders that are in the child’s best interest.
Do you need written evidence of family violence?
Having written evidence of the abuse—such as a police report, protective order, or criminal conviction—can be very helpful, but it is not absolutely necessary. A victim of abuse or witness to the abuse may also testify about his or her personal experiences.
How Courts Can Limit Parental Access
If a court finds there has been a history of family violence, the court may limit the violent parent’s possession and access to the child if the judge believes doing so is in the child’s best interest. This may include shorter visits, fewer visits, or supervised visits.
Orders for Safer Child Exchanges
In cases where there has been a history of family violence, the court can also make specific orders about where, when, and how to exchange the child.
Some orders have the exchange at a nearby police station or public location, possibly with video surveillance, such as a gas station or store. When a home address is withheld, the order must specify a safe location where the child is to be exchanged.
Orders Limiting Parent Communications
The court may also make orders limiting communications between the parents. This may include prohibiting abusive or harassing communications or limiting communication to only issues that involve the child’s care.
A court may order that all communications be via email or text message or through an app. A co-parenting app can streamline parents’ communications and will keep a record of them to use as future evidence if needed.
If a parent is in fear that the other parent will find out a home address, that parent may request that the address be withheld from all court paperwork and remain confidential. The parent can provide a different mailing address, such as a post office box or a relative’s address.