Domestic Violence – Family Law

man and woman arguing in the kitchen

Domestic violence affects many families and plays a role in many family law cases, including divorce. The tension and stress related to a legal separation or divorce can result in heated arguments between spouses or partners that lead to domestic violence. Domestic violence can lead to a parent losing custody, visitation privileges, or even having his or her rights terminated. 

Discuss Your Case With a Skilled Attorney

The attorneys at Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC have extensive experience representing individuals exposed to domestic violence. We have successfully helped many clients obtain protective orders, pursue modifications of child custody agreements, and secure favorable divorce settlements in domestic violence cases. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.

The Definition of Domestic Violence Under Virginia Law

Domestic violence is a crime in Virginia. A person convicted of domestic violence can face jail time and fines through the criminal court system. Domestic violence is defined as using violence, force, or threats that cause mental, physical, or psychological effects. 

Additionally, domestic violence isn’t limited to physical abuse. It can include making threats that put the victim in reasonable fear of physical injury. For the crime to be considered domestic violence, the perpetrator and the alleged victim need to be in one of the following types of familial relationships:

  • Individuals who are or were married
  • Individuals who share a child, whether or not they are or were married
  • Individuals who currently live in the same home
  • Individuals who have lived together for at least 12 months or longer

In addition to being a crime, domestic violence can also play a significant role in family law matters. Whether or not a person has been convicted of domestic violence, a person accused of domestic violence can face protective orders and a loss of child custody and visitation.

Protective Orders And Family Law Cases 

Family law matters, including divorce, can be some of the most high-stress situations in people’s lives. Domestic violence can occur when one spouse or partner tells the other spouse they are ready to seek a divorce. Victims of domestic violence can pursue a protective order when they’ve experienced ongoing violence or fear additional abuse. A spouse or partner needs to obtain a protective order to ensure the safety of themselves and their child or children. In emergency situations, Virginia judges can issue emergency protective orders.

The person seeking a protective order needs to present his or her side of the story and provide the court with reasons why a protective order is necessary. The alleged abuser will also be able to provide his or her side of the story. Seeking a protective order due to domestic violence situations is challenging on multiple levels. Whether you need to seek a protective order or defend against a protective order, working with an experienced attorney can help you protect yourself and your interests.

How Domestic Violence Affects Virginia Child Custody Cases

Domestic violence can heavily influence a court’s child custody decisions. Virginia courts focus on the child’s physical and emotional best interest when determining a custody arrangement. Judges will consider multiple factors, including each parent’s home environment, financial stability, and mental stability. Although Virginia courts prefer to award joint custody to both parents so they can both be actively involved in their children’s lives, they will limit or prohibit child custody when one parent has a history of domestic violence.

A history of domestic violence, even without a domestic violence conviction, could lead a judge to deviate from a joint custody arrangement and limit the abusive parent’s visitation with a child or children. Abusive parents are not always barred from having visitation with their children under Virginia law. Nonetheless, courts will heavily consider instances of domestic violence when making these determinations.  

To What Extent Does Domestic Violence Influence Child Custody Decisions?

Suppose a parent engages in a single act of domestic violence, such as slapping a child in the face. In that case, the episode may not be as significant to the judge in determining custody and visitation as a more serious Act of domestic violence. For example, suppose the parent has had several recent domestic violence convictions, or the alleged incident involved more serious abuse. The court may award the other parent sole physical and legal custody in that case. 

Supervised Visitation From Domestic Violence – Family Law

In cases involving domestic violence, judges can require supervised visitation. With supervised visitation, all visits between the child and the parents must be supervised by an agreed-upon third party. If you have concerns that your ex-spouse will engage in domestic violence after you are divorced, an attorney can help you petition the court to limit visitation to supervised visitation. Supervised visitation isn’t always permanent. In many child custody cases involving domestic violence, a judge will require supervised visitation until the abusive parent completes a domestic violence court and can prove that unsupervised visits would be in the child’s best interest.

Termination of Parental Rights Due to Domestic Violence

A judge may terminate the abusive parent’s rights in severe domestic violence cases. Terminating parental rights is permanent, unlike the requirement for supervised visitation. Once the judge makes the order, a parent’s good behavior can’t justify having his or her parental rights reinstated. Virginia courts will not terminate a parent’s rights except in the most extreme domestic abuse situations, such as habitual abuse, extreme neglect, or sexual assault of the child.

Our Attorneys Can Help You Handle Your Domestic Violence – Family Law-Related Matter

Domestic violence issues can lead to physical, mental, and emotional injuries. If you’ve been exposed to domestic violence while facing a family law matter, you will benefit from working with an experienced attorney. If you have questions about the effect of domestic violence on your family law matter, we are here to help. Contact Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC today to schedule your initial consultation and learn more about your legal options and how we can fight for you.