Can a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation?
Possibly, yes. The judge must take into consideration any evidence of family violence when making a custody decision. When evidence of family violence is found, the judge will also take into consideration the safety and well-being of the child and of the parent who is the victim of family violence – this should be one of the judge’s main concerns. The judge should also consider the abuser’s history of violence or of causing reasonable fear of violence to another person.* However, there are many other factors that s/he will consider as well - see How will a judge make a decision about custody? Therefore, the fact that a parent committed family violence does not necessarily mean that s/he will be denied custody.
Visitation or parenting time may be awarded to a parent who committed violence only if the judge believes that proper measures can be taken to ensure the safety of you and your child. Here are some things the judge could include in the visitation order:
- that the transfer of your child (from one parent to another) take place in a protected setting;
- supervised visitation by another person or agency (the abuser may be ordered to cover the cost of this);
- that the abuser has to attend and complete a certified family violence intervention program;
- that the abuser cannot drink or do drugs during the visitation and for twenty-four hours before the visitation;
- that overnight visitation is not allowed;
- that the abuser post a bond (money) for the return and safety of the child; and
- require any other condition that is considered necessary to provide for the safety of the child, the victim of violence, and any other household member.**
Whether or not visitation or parenting time is allowed, the judge may order the address of the child and the victim of family violence to be kept confidential.***
Note: A judge will not order you to attend joint counseling with the abuser as a condition of receiving custody, visitation, or parenting time.****
It is recommended that you seek legal advice from a lawyer to assist you in a custody case involving domestic violence issues. For information on how to find a lawyer, see our GA Finding a Lawyer page.
* O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(4)
** O.C.G.A. § 19-9-7(a)
*** O.C.G.A. § 19-9-7(b)
**** O.C.G.A. § 19-9-7(c)