How Can Domestic Violence Affect Your Children?

Witnessing domestic violence can be confusing and frightening for children. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, exposure to domestic violence can cause developmental delays and can damage the emotional, cognitive and social abilities of children and adolescents. Children who witness episodes of violence in the home may be more prone to bedwetting, behavioral issues and substance abuse. This can have a serious impact on their ability to lead happy and healthy lives in the future. Taking steps to protect your children from these events can be a positive step toward a brighter future for yourself and your family.

Protecting Children from Domestic Violence

The California court system provides a framework that can help you protect your children from the damaging effects of domestic violence. Retaining the services of a divorce lawyer in California can provide you with expert guidance on filing for and enforcing restraining orders that can prevent your partner from causing further harm to you or your children. Filing a restraining order is usually a good first step toward ending the cycle of domestic violence.

Child Custody and Domestic Violence

Allegations of domestic abuse can have a serious impact on the outcome of your divorce case. In most cases, a judge cannot award joint or sole custody to a parent who has been convicted of domestic violence or has been adjudicated by the courts as having committed domestic violence during the last five years. Visitation may still be allowed by the courts. Parents who have committed domestic abuse may be allowed custody of their children if they can demonstrate that this would be in the best interest of the children and if certain other criteria have been satisfied:

  • Completion of a year-long batterer intervention program
  • Adherence to the rules of probation, parole or restraining orders, if applicable
  • No further domestic violence
  • Completion of all court-ordered counseling and education plans

Retaining the professional services of an experienced divorce lawyer in California can provide added help in protecting children from domestic violence and ensuring the safest environment for the youngest members of your family.

Mediation Services for Child Custody

If domestic abuse or violence is a factor in your divorce proceedings, you may be required to go to custody mediation or counseling to determine the best arrangement for your children. In some cases, this may present serious concerns about safety on the part of the target of previous domestic violence. If you have a restraining order against your partner, you can usually arrange to meet with the mediator separately to ensure greater safety. Working with a qualified divorce lawyer in California can also provide you with added information on the options available to you when creating a parenting plan for yourself, your former spouse and your children.


Exposure to domestic violence can be extremely harmful to children. By taking steps to remove yourself and your children from the abuser and working toward a safe and secure resolution, you can mitigate some of the problems experienced by children who grow up in these situations. This can allow you to provide a healthier environment for yourself and the children in your care.

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