Child custody and visitation and domestic abuse

For some Minnesota parents, a marriage may end due to allegations of domestic abuse. When this happens, these allegations may also affect child custody. However, a court will look for evidence of abuse instead of just taking a person's word that the abuse has occurred. This includes examining physical evidence, such as photographs and police reports.

When assessing how at risk the child is, the court will consider how the domestic abuse affected the child, how often and severe the abuse was, whether the child remains at risk, and whether there is a criminal case in progress. Allegations of abuse may also affect a parent's visitation rights. These rights could be revoked for a short or longer time, or the abuser might be required to only have supervised visitation. An existing visitation order, such as one that permits overnight visits, might be altered. A parent could also be required to attend an anger management course, a parenting class or domestic violence counseling. An order of protection might also be issued.

It is estimated that annually, about 3 million children are witnesses to domestic violence. When considering child custody, a court must make a decision that is in the best interests of the child, and this means choosing the environment that is safest for the child.

When an incident of domestic violence occurs, a parent may want to file for a restraining order or order of protection. In addition to offering legal protection from the other parent, it might also help serve as evidence in court of abuse. However, a parent should keep in mind that a court also believes that a child should have contact with both parents if possible. This means that even if abuse has occurred, the abusive parent might still be granted supervised visitation or other types of limited contact with the child.

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