When two parents go through a divorce in Virginia, a judge may have to decide how to divide parenting time. One of the factors that a judge may consider is whether a divorce involved allegations of domestic violence. Although many people assume that a parent who was abused will automatically get full child custody, family law cases are not always that clear-cut.
Witnessing domestic violence in the home can cause children to experience post-traumatic stress. At the same time, a parent who was a victim of domestic violence may also be suffering from PTSD. Unfortunately, parents with mental health issues might have trouble caring for their children. Violence Against Women has reported that a significant number of domestic violence victims are not awarded primary custody of their children after they leave their abusers.
A judge will probably look at an abusive parent’s history of violence when making a determination about child custody, but an abusive parent will not necessarily be denied custody or visitation rights. If the parent who was abused is not fit to look after the children because of mental health issues like depression and anxiety, the abusive parent could be awarded custody.
One of the key issues that a judge considers when making a child custody determination is the primary caregiver standard. The parent who spent the most time with the children and cared for the children’s basic needs is usually awarded custody, especially if the children are very young. An attorney may be able to help a parent who has recently left an abusive spouse to petition for full child custody by arguing that the children should not be kept away from their primary caregiver.