Understanding the Connection Between Domestic Violence and Child Custody

Child Custody
Understanding the Connection Between Domestic Violence and Child Custody

Understanding the Connection Between Domestic Violence and Child Custody

by Justin Van Den Heuvel

Domestic violence is an issue that often falls under family law in addition to criminal law in Michigan. While acts of violence against a partner, family member, or roommate may result in different criminal charges, such actions can also affect family law situations. More specifically, incidents of domestic violence tend to have significant bearing upon matters concerning child custody and parenting time. Below is an overview of domestic violence as a family law issue in Michigan, as well as information about the connection between domestic violence and child custody in the state.

How to Define Domestic Violence or Domestic Abuse

The Michigan Judicial Institute defines domestic abuse, or domestic violence, as physical, psychological, sexual, or emotional acts of abuse carried out over time and on purpose. The State of Michigan Batterer Intervention Standards provides another definition that underscores the elements of domestic abuse, saying that it may also include isolation, economic manipulation, threats, intimidation, and stalking. The end goal of a domestic abuser, according to both definitions, is to control the victim of the abuse.

In other words, domestic violence typically involves actions designed to harm a spouse, significant other, or partner, but that individual need not be the only target of the violence. An alleged perpetrator of domestic abuse also might take harmful actions against another person in order to impact his or her partner. There are specific definitions of domestic abuse under different chapters of Michigan law in relation to both family law, personal protection orders (or PPOs), and criminal assault.

How Domestic Violence or Abuse can Affect Child Custody Cases

Even if a child is not the target of any acts of domestic violence or domestic abuse, the existence of domestic violence or allegations of it that have resulted in a PPO can prevent a parent from being granted child custody or parenting time.

Michigan courts tend to award joint custody in situations in which the parents can work together. However, the Michigan Judicial Institute emphasizes that such cooperation is almost always impossible when there is domestic abuse, and those in an abusive relationship cannot really share joint custody. In addition, although the court normally encourages shared parenting time, the presence of domestic violence can be a factor in determining whether shared parenting time is appropriate, as well as the amount of parenting time.

To be clear, domestic violence alone does not mean that a court will not grant parenting time. However, under Michigan law, if one of the following is true, then the court will not grant parenting time:

  • Clear and convincing evidence shows that the parent would be a danger to the physical, mental, or emotional health of the child; and/or
  • Parent has been convicted of criminal sexual conduct.

It is important to underscore that domestic violence can be a factor in granting parenting time “regardless of whether . . . directed against or witnessed by the child.”

Contact a Grand Rapids Domestic Violence Attorney

If you have questions or concerns about domestic violence and child custody, a family lawyer in Grand Rapids can assist you. Contact the Van Den Heuvel Law Office to learn more about our services.



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