A Compassionate Advocate
For Arizona Families

Will spousal abuse impact child custody in an Arizona divorce?

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2017 | Child Custody

Spousal abuse comes in many forms. Physical abuse is the most talked-about form of abuse, and it involves any kind of physical assault or battery of one spouse or the children in the household by the other adult. Emotional abuse can involve a range of toxic behaviors, such as gaslighting, intentionally insulting or belittling a spouse, or undermining his or her authority and value in front of the children or others.There are other kinds of abuse beyond the better known types. Sometimes abuse is sexual in nature, where one spouse forces physical intimacy or sex acts with a spouse who has not consented. It could be financial, which happens when one spouse carefully controls the financial freedom of the other spouse by limiting access to money or carefully monitoring any use of household funds. That can leave one spouse unable to live independently.

Regardless of the form of abuse you’ve experienced, if you’re considering divorce with children, you probably need to know the impact the abuse could have.

Documented abuse can impact your divorce

When there are allegations of abuse during divorce, the courts usually look for some kind of proof. Police reports and medical records can serve as evidence to substantiate claims of physical or emotional abuse. Sometimes, testimony from co-workers, family, neighbors or a therapist can also help. Court records, such as orders of protection or convictions for abuse can also provide necessary evidence.

If the department of child safety has been involved because of child abuse, those records, as well as information from the school the children attend or a domestic abuse shelter could help prove to the courts that there is a history of abuse in your relationship. If there is evidence of abuse, that could absolutely impact the outcome of your child custody proceedings. In some cases, it could also impact asset division and spousal support considerations.

Custody matters depend on the best interests of the children

In general, when an Arizona family court has to determine the custody arrangements for a divorcing couple, they prefer to create shared custody or co-parenting arrangements. All custody decisions should focus on the best interests of the children, which typically means protecting an ongoing relationship between the children and both parents.

In cases with substantiated claims of abuse, however, shared custody may not serve the best interests of the children. In cases where the children themselves experienced abuse, the courts generally presume that awarding sole or joint custody or decision-making authority to the abusive parent is not in the best interests of the children. It the children were not targets of abuse but witnessed abuse of one parent by the other, the courts may also consider that unhealthy for the children.

It’s important to realize that every case is different and that the courts allow spouses accused of abuse the opportunity to refute the assumption that they should not have sole or shared custody of the children.