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Criminal Defense

Child Custody and Domestic Violence Allegations: Legal Considerations

By November 13, 2023May 21st, 2024No Comments
Gun with judge's gavel and legal book | Domestic Violence and Child Custody Lawyer | Wegman & Levin

As a parent, the safety and well-being of your children is a top priority. Even if you have separated from your spouse or dating partner (i.e., the child’s other parent), you likely want to spend time with your child and forge a secure and lasting relationship with them as they grow up. California’s family court system strives to establish child custody arrangements that support the child’s ability to spend time with both parents. However, there are certain circumstances in which the court may limit or deny a parent’s custodial rights in order to protect the child’s best interests. For instance, if a judge learns of a parent’s ongoing and well-documented history of substance abuse, they may hold off on granting that parent custodial rights until they have attended counseling and can demonstrate their commitment to sobriety and safety. In other cases, a parent accused of domestic violence may find their parental and custodial rights revoked or suspended until the matter can be thoroughly investigated and resolved. The court’s goal is to protect children from harm, which means that any accusation of domestic abuse must be taken seriously. If someone has accused you of domestic assault in Los Angeles County, contact a seasoned and trusted criminal defense lawyer right away to discuss your options.

Defining Acts of Domestic Violence in California

First, it’s useful to understand what actions constitute domestic violence under California law. Penal Code sec. 273.5 states, “Any person who willfully inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a victim described in subdivision (b) is guilty of a felony.” When the victim is either the offender’s spouse or former spouse, cohabitant or former cohabitant, fiancé or fiancée, or someone with whom the offender has, or previously had, an engagement or dating relationship, or the mother or father of the offender’s child, the act constitutes domestic violence. The legal definition of traumatic condition refers to “a condition of the body, such as a wound, or external or internal injury, including, but not limited to, injury as a result of strangulation or suffocation, whether of a minor or serious nature, caused by a physical force.” Essentially, acts of aggression and harm between current or former intimate partners may be considered a domestic violence criminal offense.

Criminal Penalties for Domestic Violence Convictions

If law enforcement in Los Angeles County has arrested you for committing an act of domestic violence, it’s natural to wonder what penalties you could face in the event that you’re convicted of the offense. The penalties for domestic violence-related crimes vary depending on the specifics of the case. Some domestic violence crimes, such as spousal battery, are considered misdemeanor offenses, punishable by up to one year in county jail, a $2,000 fine, and other potential restrictions to your freedom and future. Cases involving serious injuries or sexual assault will likely lead to felony charges, punishable by up to four years in state prison, up to $10,000 in fines, and mandatory participation in a court-approved domestic violence education class. Aggravating factors, including assault with a weapon or having previous domestic violence convictions on your record, can lead to more severe and lasting penalties.

How Domestic Violence Affects Child Custody

When it comes to establishing a child custody agreement, the court seeks to ensure the safety, mental health, and physical well-being of the child above all else. When a parent faces accusations of domestic violence, the court will use this information when deciding how to determine legal and physical custody between the two parents. Because the court wants to avoid placing the child in the care of an unsafe or abusive parent, they take any allegation (regardless of merit) seriously. Unfortunately, this means that a vindictive parent may falsely accuse the other parent of domestic abuse in order to gain a more favorable custodial arrangement. Once the court has investigated the allegations and finds that the accused did act violently toward another parent, child, or sibling within the past five years, the judge may apply a “rebuttable presumption” that prevents the abusive parent from attaining sole or joint custody of the child. Moreover, the court may suspend your visitation rights as well, further restricting any contact between you and your child. As a parent, losing custody of your child can be devastating and negatively affect your relationship with your child. It’s imperative that you enlist the guidance of a trusted and experienced Los Angeles County attorney to help you defend your parental rights in the face of exaggerated or baseless allegations of domestic violence.

How a Skilled Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Can Help

Facing criminal charges of any kind can be overwhelming and devastating. Suddenly, your future becomes uncertain, and you worry about how the outcome will shape the course of your life. Parents accused of domestic violence or other criminal acts face even more hurdles; in addition to potential imprisonment and costly fines, their parental and custodial rights may be ripped away. The best way you can limit the disastrous outcomes of these charges is to work with a skilled and dedicated criminal defense lawyer who will work tirelessly to enforce your rights and clear your name. You need an attorney who will assess the details of your case to determine the most effective legal defense strategy to keep your future as bright as possible. As a parent, there is so much more at stake than your own freedom and legal rights. It’s essential to fight hard to keep your custodial and visitation rights intact to ensure that you continue to participate in your child’s life and future. Now is not the time to leave your future up to chance—contact a dedicated and experienced Los Angeles County criminal defense lawyer right away to start mounting a solid defense strategy.

Allegations of domestic violence can trigger serious consequences, even if the accusations are exaggerated or baseless. If someone is accusing you of domestic abuse, contact Wegman & Levin right away to discuss your options for fighting these allegations. Call (818) 980-4000 today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced and trusted Los Angeles County criminal defense lawyer.

Michael M. Levin, Esq.

Michael M. Levin is an experienced attorney who has been in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer for over 25 years. He has conducted numerous jury trials in cases ranging from DUI to capital murder. Read More

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