How Domestic Violence May Impact a Custody Case

Factors Under Review

When making custody decisions, Virginia courts prioritize the child's best interests. They consider numerous factors to ensure a safe and stable environment with the goal of fostering the child's well-being and development.

Commonly considered factors under Virginia law include:

  • The age and physical and mental condition of the child.
  • The age and physical and mental condition of each parent.
  • The relationship existing between each parent and the child.
  • The needs of the child.
  • The role each parent has played and will play in the future in the upbringing and care of the child.
  • The propensity of each parent to actively support the child's relationship with the other parent.
  • Each parent's relative willingness and demonstrated ability to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child.
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, age, and experience to express such a preference.
  • Any history of family abuse.
  • Any other factors the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.

Under Virginia law, any history of family abuse, defined by § 16.1-228 of the Code of Virginia, sexual abuse, child abuse, or acts of violence, force, or threats that have occurred in the past ten years may diminish a party’s chance of obtaining or retaining custody of their child.

How Instances of Domestic Violence Can Trigger a Modification of Custody

A parent of a child or child protective services can seek modification of a court order or initiate judicial proceedings in the event a child is subjected to or observes domestic violence in the home. Virginia law places a high priority on the safety and well-being of children, and any proven incidents of domestic violence, especially in the presence of a child, can prompt court intervention.

Parent-Requested Modifications

When a parent learns their child was a victim of or observed domestic violence, or if a parent is a victim themselves, they may file a petition to modify an existing custody or visitation order. They may also seek out an emergency protective order to protect their child, themselves, or both. To initiate this process, the parent must go to the courthouse and speak with a juvenile and domestic relations court clerk, and also document the incident, which may take the form of police reports, medical records, or witness statements. At a hearing, the court will then assess the credibility and severity of these claims to determine whether modifications to the custody arrangement are warranted.

CPS-Driven Cases

In cases where domestic violence is reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) or law enforcement, the state may remove the child from the home and pursue a modification of custody arrangements. In severe cases, this may result in the termination of parental rights for the offending parent.

In either scenario, the best interests of the child remain paramount. Consequently, any substantiated case of domestic violence can lead to significant changes in custody arrangements to ensure the child's safety and well-being.

Seeking Legal Assistance for Domestic Violence Cases

If you and your family are dealing with domestic violence, speaking with an experienced family law attorney can be highly beneficial. Attorneys at The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller have a thorough knowledge of the Virginia Code and have helped countless families navigate similar situations. We are dedicated to providing the support and expert guidance you need during this challenging time.

We provide a wide range of domestic-violence-related legal services, including:

  • Helping secure protective orders.
  • Guidance in seeking child custody modifications.
  • Representation during domestic violence hearings.
  • Representation in interactions with CPS.
  • Defense against false allegations of domestic violence.

Our team is committed to helping you preserve the safety and well-being of your family, and we are here to help when you need us. Do not hesitate to reach out for a consultation to discuss your case and explore your options.

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