Child custody and visitation when domestic violence is an issue

| Aug 10, 2020 | Child Custody |

During a divorce, separation or paternity action, many judges in Gulfport and throughout coastal Mississippi will show a strong preference for joint legal custody, that is, shared  decision-making authority.

These judges may even prompt the parents to share their time with children on a roughly 50-50 basis.

While this all sounds great on paper, many victims of domestic violence may realize that in their situations, sharing child custody is just not a safe or reasonable option and may want to know alternatives.

On the other side of the coin, a parent who gets accused falsely of domestic violence will want to appreciate the seriousness of these accusations.

Domestic violence and custody

In a Mississippi custody dispute, either parent may present evidence that the other parent has either

  1. Committed one incident of domestic violence that left the parent, a child, or other member of the family home seriously injured, or,
  2. Engaged in a pattern of domestic violence against such people.

If a judge is convinced of this evidence, then the court will presume that the other parent should not have any kind of custody, joint or otherwise, over his or her children.

The other parent can overcome this presumption, but he or she generally must show evidence that he or she is rehabilitated.

It is important to note that while a criminal conviction can be used as evidence, a court can still deem a parent a perpetrator of domestic violence even if he or she was never convicted or even charged.

Limited visits because of domestic violence

Under the same law, Mississippi judges are not supposed to allow a perpetrator of domestic violence visits without first ensuring the children are safe.

To do so, the judge may take steps like ordering supervised visitation at the perpetrator’s expense, barring overnight visitation or requiring the perpetrator to attend counseling before having visits.