How Does Domestic Violence Affect Custody Decisions?

Domestic violence or intimate partner abuse is common in North Carolina. Spouses enduring physical abuse or afraid for the well-being of their children may reach a point where divorce is the only option for their own safety. 

Unfortunately, when you have children divorcing someone who has been abusive, you won’t necessarily mean a clean break. They will probably still want to spend time with the children if only to maintain their access to and control over you. 

Can you ask the courts to intervene and protect your children when domestic violence forces you to end your marriage?

The children don’t have to receive the abuse for it to affect them

Do you have documentation of the abuse? This may include pages of police reports from neighbors calling the cops when your spouse turns violent or medical records of your injuries. If not, it may not be that hard for you to convince a family law judge that you have suffered abuse during your marriage.

Although your spouse may still try to seek shared custody, possibly by claiming that they never focused their anger on the children, you could potentially fight back to protect your kids. Children who routinely witness the abuse of one parent by the other may be at risk for adverse relationship outcomes as they get older. 

Witnessing the abuse of a loved one can also be a serious form of emotional trauma. There’s also the possibility that your ex will turn their abuse toward the children when they can’t vent it on you. Showing how domestic violence has affected your children can help you convince the courts to give you primary or even sole custody in your divorce and may help you protect them from exposure to the same abuse. 

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