It’s difficult to create a child custody plan, and proceedings tend to be emotionally charged. The complexities increase with the presence of domestic violence. The victim can fear retaliation and recurring abuse, while the children involved may fear the future, wondering what will happen to them and the victimized parent. In these types of cases, an Indianapolis or Fort Wayne child custody lawyer can help.

Understanding Child Custody in Indiana

With child custody, there are a number of options available to the parents. Arrangements usually fall into one of these categories:

  • One parent receives sole legal custody and sole physical custody.
  • One parent receives sole physical custody, while both parents have joint legal custody.
  • Both parents have joint legal and physical custody.
  • One parent has sole legal custody, and both parents have joint physical custody.

If both parents can agree upfront on how they would like to determine custody, their decision will likely be implemented by the judge. If they are not able to agree, a judge will consider the facts of the situation, such as the age of the child(ren), the mental and physical health of the parents, and the parents’ ability to provide for the child. The judge will also take into account any presence of violence or domestic abuse.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Each state uses its own terminology to define domestic violence. Generally speaking, domestic violence includes the violent behavior between two people who have, or previously had, a personal, intimate relationship. This type of relationship is defined as two people who share a child or children together or who were or are dating, married, or living in the same household.

The relationship does not have to be or have been romantic. For instance, a parent/child relationship would fall under this category. Some examples of domestic violence acts of violence include:

  • Assault: Assault does not necessarily have to result in physical harm or injury. The intention to inflict harm is considered assault. Examples include hitting, pushing, or shoving.
  • Battery: Battery is an attack that results in physical harm. Examples of this include biting, slapping, and kicking.
  • Kidnapping or False Imprisonment: This is holding someone against their will and not allowing them the freedom to leave.
  • Sexual assault or battery: This is the unlawful act of forcing someone to perform or endure sexual acts against their will. This could include holding someone down during sex, hitting them during sex, or threatening them with bodily harm if they refuse to participate in sexual acts.
  • The threatening any of the aforementioned crimes

Tips on Improving You and Your Child’s Safety in Domestic Violence Child Custody Cases

If you are ready to leave a domestic violence situation with your children and are seeking custody of them, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and help you win your case:

  • Keep records of everything: Document every incident with all relevant information, including the date and time it happened.
  • Obtain an emergency protection order: A protection order is signed by a judge and orders your abuser not to perform any more violence against you (or your children). Include custody of your children in the order so that you may obtain immediate custody of your children. This will also ensure that you are not accused of kidnapping. Keep in mind that this order is temporary.
  • Save money: In some instances, victims must relocate quickly. Having a safety net to pay for a sudden relocation can help you and your children transition well.
  • Secure a safe space to live for a while: If you can, go to a place where your abuser will not immediately think to find you. If your options are limited, have safety precautions in place at your new location in case they do locate you.
  • Seek additional help: A family lawyer can help you with a child custody plan and can assist and fight for you in court. Shelters may be available for housing needs. There are also a number of other programs for victims of domestic violence. Contact local and national agencies for more information.


Q: What Evidence Do I Need to Prove Domestic Violence in Child Custody Hearings?

A: Evidence needed to prove domestic violence in child custody hearings includes police reports, medical reports (for proof of injuries), witness statements, photographs of injuries, video-recorded evidence of attacks, and protective orders. Because domestic violence can easily turn into a case of one person’s word against another’s, evidence is crucial in helping your case.

Q: How Does Domestic Violence Affect a Child Custody Case?

A: Domestic violence could affect a child custody case by preventing the abusive parent from obtaining custody. A judge will formulate a plan based on the child’s best interest. If the abuser was only violent to their partner and not the children, there is a possibility that they could be awarded visitation. If they were violent toward the children, they would likely not receive any visitation, or they could receive supervised visitation.

Q: Can Abusive Partners Regain Child Custody or Visitation Rights?

A: It is possible for an abusive partner to regain child custody or visitation rights. Typically, they will have to prove rehabilitation to the court to regain their rights. This can include counseling, anger management courses, rehabilitation programs (especially if their violence is fueled by drugs and/or alcohol), and an evident change of behavior.

Q: Can My Child Custody Agreement Be Modified?

A: A child custody agreement can be modified if a significant change in circumstances has occurred. Examples of these changes include relocation, changes in the child’s needs, and concerns regarding the child’s safety. In some cases, if both parents mutually agree on a change they feel is necessary, the change may be made.

Contact a Family Law Attorney in Fort Wayne or Indianapolis

In child custody cases involving domestic violence, an experienced family law attorney can be vital in securing the well-being of both the affected parent and the child. An attorney can assist you in gathering the evidence you need as well as taking the steps needed to secure legal safety.

Formulating a child custody agreement can be challenging, especially with the complexities of the law. The presence of domestic violence only adds to these complexities. Contact Stange Law Firm today to learn more about your options.