Victims of domestic violence in California may be worried about going to court to manage child custody matters, but a new law may make this process easier. Domestic abusers have been known to threaten their victims with potentially losing their children. Sometimes, the abusive partner in a relationship may have greater financial resources, which he or she may argue makes him or her a more secure choice for primary custody. In addition, victims of abuse may have a difficult time documenting how the abuse may affect the children, especially if there is a limited amount of external evidence, like police reports or hospital records.
Courts tend to prefer shared custody
In most cases, family courts tend to prefer shared custody. Research shows that children strongly benefit from cultivating close relationships with both of their parents. Of course, this research looks primarily at nonabusive relationships and families, in which the parents may have interpersonal conflicts with each other but not a perpetrator-victim dynamic. Some abuse victims may face challenges proving their abusers’ behavior in court, especially if it was primarily directed at them, not the children.
SB 1141 provides protection for abuse survivors
SB 1141, signed into law in September 2020, makes it easier for survivors of abuse to provide evidence in court. Abuse can take multiple forms, including emotional and financial abuse, not only physical or sexual assault. This law allows the use of coercive control, including the isolation of an abuse victim from relatives, friends and other support circles, as evidence of domestic violence in a child custody case.
Many abuse survivors have remained in dangerous and harmful relationships because they were concerned about the custody process, but this law may provide greater hope. A family law attorney may provide legal advice and guidance to help victims of domestic abuse seek a fair outcome in family court.