Child custody is a serious legal issue across Minnesota and many other states. Often in divorces, child custody is one of the most important and litigated issues. Battles over child custody also result in children becoming the victims. In serious cases, this can lead to children developing post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health conditions.
Part of the problem regarding child custody is the pervasive myths about child custody that surround how it is decided, especially when domestic violence or abuse is involved. Many parents mistakenly believe that if they are separating from an abusive partner, they will be almost assured to gain custody of their children. While evidence of abuse and domestic violence is surely a factor that the court will consider, it is not the only factor, and it may not even be the most important. The court will also examine, among other factors, income, housing and the child’s own wishes. These can sometimes outweigh claims of domestic violence.
Another common myth is that separation or divorce from an abusive spouse can protect children from further abuse. In reality, the opposite may be true. Separation or divorce often puts children in the position of being used as bargaining tools or leverage. This can place an incredible amount of mental stress on a child who wishes to please and love both parents. A spouse may wish to consider alternatives to a litigated divorce, such as family therapy or mediation to protect children from this situation.
If a divorce reaches court, the court may make a distinction between domestic violence focused against the parent and violence focused against the children. If a spouse does not have a history of abuse specifically against the children, they may still be granted custody. It is also common for the abusing spouse to actually convince the court that the other partner is partially or mostly responsible for abuse. A child custody attorney may be able to help a parent who is a victim of domestic violence understand their position fully and reach a favorable outcome.