California has several laws that are designed to protect victims of domestic violence who are going through a divorce or other custody proceeding. Oakland residents who have made the decision to leave an abusive partner definitively, as well as those who are accused of domestic violence, should be aware of these laws, as they can have a significant impact on custody and parenting time.

California courts are not supposed to award custody to perpetrators

Courts have the right to designate a family law case as a domestic violence case. To do so, the court must find that a parent either has been convicted of a crime involving domestic violence within the previous 5 years. Even if there is no conviction, however, a court may still find that a parent committed domestic violence against either the other parent or the children. Once the court determines to treat the matter as a domestic violence case, the court ordinarily may not give any custody rights to the perpetrator.

This means the perpetrator will not be able to make or even share in important decisions about his or her child, such as healthcare decisions and questions about education or religion. A perpetrator may be able to convince the court to grant custodial rights anyway by showing certain evidence of rehabilitation. At a minimum, he or she will have to complete a special domestic violence program.

Domestic violence can also affect parenting time

California law does not keep a court from giving parenting time to a parent who has a track record of domestic violence. However, courts can certainly consider this history when deciding how much parenting time to offer and under what terms and conditions. In some cases, the court may entertain a request for supervised visits only.