Domestic violence is a serious issue that can directly impact child custody arrangements. Arizona law requires courts to determine custody based on what is in the best interest of the child. If a parent is charged with domestic violence, it could hurt their chances of obtaining or retaining custody of their child. As Arizona strives to protect children from domestic violence, the courts may choose to revoke or restrict visitation rights for individuals who are suspected or charged with this type of crime.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence in Arizona?
In Arizona, “domestic violence” is defined as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts:
- Intimidating or threatening
- Assault or aggravated assault, such as kicking or hitting
- Harassment or aggravated harassment
- Sexual assault
- Surreptitious videotaping, photographing, digitally recording, filming, or viewing a partner without their consent
- Unlawful distribution of sexual or nude images
- Criminal damage or trespass
- Unlawful imprisonment
- Use of verbal threats
- Abusive behaviors that result in the issuance of a protective order
There is often some confusion as to what type of relationship a person needs to have with an offender to be considered abuse. Under Arizona law, several types of relationships qualify this type of behavior as abuse.
Specifically, Arizona law protects current and former spouses, people who have a child together, people who live together, people who are related by blood or marriage, relationships where a person is pregnant with the other person’s child, people who are or were once romantically involved, and children.
How Domestic Violence Could Impact Child Custody
The primary goal of the Arizona legal system is to protect children from possible harm. There are many aspects that a judge may look at when determining what is in the best interest of a child, such as their home life, the parents’ jobs, and the parents’
relationships with the child. Another major factor that courts look at is if either parent has committed an act of domestic violence.
In Arizona, there are two main types of custody: physical and legal. Legal custody involves a parent’s right to make important decisions on behalf of their children, such as decisions regarding their health and education. Physical custody refers to the place where the child primarily lives and receives basic care, such as bathing and feeding.
When determining both physical and legal custody of a child, a judge will look at whether there has been child abuse or domestic violence, as well as whether the parent has been charged with falsely reporting domestic violence or child abuse. When there is evidence of domestic violence present, the court sees this as not being in the best interest of the child. If domestic violence has occurred, a parent is less likely to get custody and cannot share joint legal custody.
Courts use a variety of resources to make these rulings, such as:
- Police records
- Rulings from other courts
- Medical records
- Witness testimony
- Domestic violence shelter records
- Child protective services reports
- School records
If a judge finds that domestic violence has occurred, the court will make it a top priority to protect both the victimized parent and child. In these cases, the abusive parent is generally not awarded “parenting time” until he or she has convinced the judge that parenting time will not endanger the child or negatively affect the child’s emotional development.
In situations where parenting time is awarded, the court may put stipulations in place to protect the other parent and child from danger. This could mean scheduling parenting time in a protected setting, such as a police station lobby. The parenting time may need to be supervised by a state agency or a family member. The court may also ban overnight visits, order the abusive parent to abstain from consuming drugs or alcohol within 24 hours of the parenting time or establish any other conditions necessary to keep all parties safe.
Can Parental Rights Be Terminated for Offenders?
There is a chance that a domestic violence offender’s parental rights could be terminated. This can occur in very serious cases where there is a history and pattern of domestic violence and/or child abuse. In this situation, certain parties can file a petition to ask the court to terminate the offending parent’s rights, such as a foster parent, relative, licensed welfare agency, physician, or the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES).
Security. When parental rights are terminated, the parent loses both physical and legal rights to the child.
Speak with a JacksonWhite Family Law Attorney
Domestic violence is a serious infraction in Arizona that can have significant physical, mental, economical, and emotional consequences. Perpetrators of domestic violence often impact their child custody privileges and in severe cases, could lose their parental rights completely.
As Arizona family law can be complex, it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side to help you navigate the legal system. Our JacksonWhite family law attorneys can help you determine where you stand and how best to proceed with your case.
At JacksonWhite, we understand how difficult it can be to deal with stressful child custody matters. Our family law team treats each case with the utmost sensitivity and compassion to make the process a little easier for you and your family.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.