Many people are aware that courts take into account a wide variety of factors when making child custody determinations. Collectively, these factors are referred to as the best interests of the child. Included in the statutory list of these factors is everything from the medical, mental health and educational needs of the child to the willingness and ability of each parent to provide ongoing care for the child and to cooperate with the other parent.
One particularly important factor courts take into consideration when determining the best interest of the child for purposes of custody is whether there has been domestic abuse in the picture. Obviously, abuse of the child is a very serious issue and would dictate against the abusing parent receiving a favorable custody determination, but Minnesota law also directs judges to consider other forms of abuse as well.
Abuse between the parents of the child, or abuse in either parent’s separate household or relationships can also impact child custody determinations. Judges will look not only at the fact of abuse but also the nature of that abuse and the context in which is occurred, with a particular concern for the impact that abuse would have on the child’s “safety, well-being and developmental needs.” Obviously, any abuse of anybody at all in a home is going to create a negative and potentially dangerous environment for a child.
In cases where serious abuse can be easily substantiated, there is undoubtedly going to be little difficulty for a judge in making an appropriate decision regarding custody. In cases where abuse is not as easily substantiated, or where both parties have been responsible for instigating abuse, it may be more difficult to determine what way a custody determination should go.
Although the primary concern in child custody proceedings is the best interests of the child, parents who face unfair or one-sided accusations of abuse should be sure to work with an experienced advocate to ensure their custody rights are not unfairly prejudiced.