Child Custody process is one which considers numerous factors to protect the child. This includes their safety, well-being, and education. In the United States, including the state of Virginia, sole custody is often awarded to only one parent when the other parent is found to be violent or simply ‘unfit’. This violent behavior of the parent might result in dire situations with severe consequences.
When determining whether custody should be shared, which parent should be awarded primary custody, how much each parent should have visitation rights, courts have to take into account a number of factors, prioritizing the child’s best interest.
It has been discovered that abusers are often motivated to get child custody as they use their child as a means to control and intimidate the other parent after separation. This is because, the abuser begins to view the divorce as a battle, and use their child to be in control of the other parent. Children who grow up witnessing physical, emotional or psychological violence may demonstrate comparable levels of emotional and behavioral issues as the children who suffered direct physical or sexual abuse on themselves.
Here is a recent case study ruling in Pulaski, Virginia:
A mother was sentenced to seven years in prison this year on Monday, April 27. She was punished after she had left her five-month-old baby with his abusive father. Upon a severe fight between the parents, she had watched the father allegedly throwing the baby onto a bed. Instead of carrying the child with her, she then left the baby with the violent father. Thereby, the father was arrested following the child abuse the next day, and the investigation authorities came to know that the child was missing. It was later found that the father had buried the child, naked with dozens of bruises and injuries on his body. The father is now serving capital murder charges as he is responsible for the death of his child, while the mother was found to be responsible for abandoning her baby with the child susceptible to terrible violence. The trial was set to start in early June this year. Although she had expressed her utter regrets and sincerely pleaded for court kindness and judge’s mercy, the mother was declared guilty of felony child neglect charges.
The courts in Virginia and across the US cannot understate the importance of keeping in mind ‘the best interests of the child’ when making decisions regarding child custody. Tragic events like the one described above can constantly remind you of the mantra during the decision making process.
The victims of domestic violence are usually depressed, often suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders. Hence, they fail to talk about their ordeal and emotions in the court. This combined with lack of appropriate legal counseling and emotional instability might lead them to lose the custody of the child to their abusive partner. Consequently, the courts are responsible to be more vigilant to make a decision that ensures the children’s best interests as well as victim’s safety and emotional health.