Emotions often run high during child custody disputes, and family law judges in New Jersey and around the country frequently have to determine whether or not there is any truth to inflammatory accusations. While malicious comments made in the heat of the moment may sometimes be excused or overlooked by judges, accusations of domestic violence are generally taken extremely seriously.
This is because child custody decisions are based on what is thought to be in the best interests of the child, and judges tend to err on the side of caution when there is even a small chance that children could be placed in dangerous situations. Claims of domestic violence may not only prevent parents from being awarded sole or joint physical custody, but they could also lead to the denial of their visitation rights. However, judges will expect to be provided with compelling evidence that abuse actually occurred.
Evidence of domestic abuse that is likely to meet these standards includes actual video or audio recordings of assaults, the medical records of the victim and reports of any action taken by law enforcement. Judges will generally consider when and how frequently the abuse occurred, whether or not the children involved witnessed it or were threatened in any way, and the outcome of any related criminal proceedings.
Experienced family law attorneys will likely have encountered clients who have made claims of domestic violence or had such accusations leveled against them. When violent episodes are recent or ongoing, attorneys may seek restraining orders to protect both the children involved as well as the victims of abuse. When incidents are less serious or occurred long ago, attorneys could recommend domestic violence counseling or anger management classes to parents who have made mistakes in the past but still wish to enjoy nurturing relationships with their children.