A valid fear many victims of domestic violence have is that their abusive exes will gain custody of the children. There are many ways to prevent that from happening, though, and that includes filing a protection order against the perpetrator. With an order on file, here are two ways it will impact custody proceedings.

A Hold Is Placed on Custody Issues

If you're divorcing your abusive spouse or the other person is suing you for custody of the children, the court will put custody proceedings on hold until the issue of the protective order is fully resolved. Unfortunately, obtaining a restraining order is a multistep process that requires you to return to court several times.

The problem is, the first restraining order is a temporary one that's only valid for a few weeks at best. The permanent one is only granted after you have proven to the court's satisfaction that:

  • Your ex committed domestic violence against you and/or the children, and
  • The person is likely to continue harming you if contact is allowed

In the meantime, temporary custody is usually given to the parent who filed for the protective order. Once that order becomes permanent, the family court judge will award physical custody of the kids to the non-abusive parent.

Be aware, though, that your ex still has rights and you may be required to share legal custody of the children. This depends on the nature of the abuse and what the protective order says, though. If a no-contact order was placed because of severe abuse, then you will usually be given full legal and physical custody.

Supervised Visitation May Be Allowed

In some cases, the court will allow the abusive parent to have visitation rights, even if they hurt the children during the relationship. Courts are often reluctant to cut parents completely off from their kids. Thus, if the judge thinks it would be in the best interest of the children and the kids can be protected from abuse, they will let your ex see them.

Again, this depends on the type and severity of the abuse, whether the person is an ongoing threat, and the terms of the protective order. A court may prohibit visitation if the kids were sexually abused but allow limited supervised visits if there was only physical abuse involved, for example. However, visitation will typically be barred altogether if there's any indication the abusive parent will commit grave harm to you or the children (e.g. the person threatens to commit murder/suicide).

Preventing an abusive parent from getting custody of the kids can be challenging. It's essential you work with a family law attorney who can help you achieve the outcome you need to protect yourself and your children. Reach out to a family law attorney to learn more.