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Divorce and Family Law

How might domestic violence allegations affect custody?

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2021 | Child Custody

People from all walks of life can experience domestic violence.

It is a common problem which affects many Michiganders. In these cases, it takes a lot of courage for a victim to leave the relationship and do what she needs to do to protect herself and her children.

On the other hand, custody and parenting time proceedings, whether during a divorce or otherwise, can get very nasty. Too often, a person might make up or greatly exaggerate allegations in order to get an advantage in her case.

This is just as unfair as when a victim of domestic violence has to continue to give an abuser access to her children.

Michigan law allows courts to consider domestic violence allegations

Like other states, Michigan courts award custody and parenting time consistent with the best interests of the children involved.

As part of deciding what arrangement is in a child’s best interests, judges may consider accusations of domestic violence. The upshot is that judges are much less likely to give a parent custody or unrestricted parenting time if he is an abuser.

To some extent, the law is broad. The alleged domestic violence does not have to involve the child in any respect. The alleged violence does not even have to be directed against the other parent.

Moreover, it is important to remember that there need not be a criminal charge in order for a parent to raise an allegation.  The standard of proving the allegation is much lower than it would be in criminal court.

On the other hand, unlike many other states, Michigan does not outright prohibit judges from  awarding custody and parenting time to an alleged abuser even in the face of a credible allegation.

A history of domestic violence is in theory just one factor among many when it comes to custody. There are some narrow exceptions for particularly egregious criminal cases.

Likewise, Michigan judges may consider the risk of ongoing violence when awarding parenting time, but they may only impose significant parenting time restrictions with clear and convincing evidence that liberal parenting time will harm the child in some way.

Still, a parent in the northern Detroit suburbs who has been a victim of domestic violence, or who is the target of an accusation, should evaluate his legal options carefully.