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Domestic violence complicates child custody matters

When a Maryland resident is subjected to domestic violence, the victim is often fearful of what would happen if he or she were to leave the relationship. Those who share children with their abuser may fear that leaving would mean that they would no longer be able to protect the kids from harm. It is not uncommon for a perpetrator of domestic violence to threaten to "take away" one's children in a child custody battle.

When an abuser seeks custody rights, he or she is often allowed to play a role in the lives of his or her children. The courts do not always consider domestic violence against a partner when addressing child custody rights. In order to protect one's children from harm at the hands of an abusive parent, an aggressive legal stance must be taken.

The best way to address the matter is by providing as much proof as possible of acts of violence, whether directed toward the children or the adult partner. Having documentation is critical to convincing a judge that an abusive parent should not have unrestricted rights to his or her children. This can be a difficult hurdle to clear, and partners must be willing to report violence as it takes place, and to collect a body of photographs, witness statements and medical reports whenever possible.

In some cases, an abusive partner will be successful in obtaining visitation with his or her children. In those instances, the custodial parent must remain vigilant in order to detect if there are any abusive practices at play within the parent/child relationship. It may be helpful to have children work with a therapist to ensure that all is well. Here again, any issues must be reported and documented, so that the concerned parent will have evidence to support to the court when the time comes to challenge the existing custody order.

Addressing domestic violence and child custody is a difficult task. Parents often hold far greater fears for the safety of their children than they do for their own well-being, and the thought of their kids being placed in harm's way will make many victims remain in a dangerous environment for far too long. For those in Maryland who are concerned about a child custody case against an abuser, it can be helpful to meet with an attorney to discuss options and create a strategy.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Can Family Courts Protect Children Exposed to Domestic Violence?", David Adams, Feb. 11, 2016

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