Tips on how to deal with an abusive partner when it comes to divorce, visitation, and custody.
Dealing with an abusive partner is a difficult process, one that takes a great deal of courage to overcome. Putting an end to the cycle of domestic violence by way of divorce is a way for a spouse to stop an unhealthy marriage and put an end to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Abusive spouses are increasingly being portrayed in the media. The recent wave of domestic violence cases in the NFL started a media firestorm in 2014, making it the “sports story of the year,” according to an article by the Denver Post.
The article also references an important part of many divorces with an abusive spouse: children. In this post we bring a renewed focus to showing what legal steps parents can take during a divorce in New York, and what they can do during subsequent visitations to protect themselves and their children.
In New York, a parent can file a petition with the court to set up a custody arrangement. This way one spouse cannot force another to take custody of their child. In the view of the Court, both parents have a right to spend time with their children until proven otherwise. This is true even if there has been a history of abuse or alleged abuse upon a spouse or child. However, the court looks to “the best interests of the child” when finally determining custody and visitation. These “interests” can include maintaining the child’s safety and well-being. If there is an environment of any kind of abuse with one parent, the judge must take this into consideration when making a custody decision, along with other relevant information. These priorities are outlined in Domestic Relations Article 13 § 240 of the New York Code.
Every child custody case in New York is unique to the family involved, but there are certain requirements that can be put into place by the judge to protect the parent and children. The accused parent may not be able to have unsupervised or extended visits with the child. In this case, the other parent, a designated guardian, or a third party determined by the parents and the court must be with the child during these visitations. This is helpful in more serious or cases involving domestic violence, such as those where there is the possibility of kidnapping. The location of these visits may also be scheduled during the custody hearing. The locale might be a parent’s home, a therapist’s office, or a public space that will maintain the safety of the child.
In some cases, it is not safe for an abusive spouse to see or speak with his or her partner due to prior threatening behavior. In these cases, an Order of Protection is issued by the court that keeps both spouses from having contact with one another, such as phone calls or in-person visits. The Court can also make accommodations to make sure that children can still have visitations with a parent. There may be a third party, who will act as a go-between for both parents to set up visits. This prevents any communication between the parents that would violate the Order of Protection. The third party may also supervise visits between children and parent. In less aggressive cases, both parents can agree to allow in-person exchanges, so long as they occur in public places or police precincts. The one key takeaway from all this custody and visitation information is that there are ways to work with the court to set up visits and exchanges between parents that won’t compromise the safety of the child.
One thing to keep in mind is that supervised or restricted visitations can be temporary. This is not meant to make the restrictions easier to break, but to allow one parent to prove to a judge that he or she has taken all the necessary steps to change their abusive behavior.
These steps may be attending therapy sessions or a rehabilitation program that suits the person’s abusive behavior, such as going through rehab for substance abuse or completing anger management classes. The judge can order the parent to complete specific types of programs and therapies before considering a modification to the visitation order. This process not only gives an incentive to change to the offending parent, it also outlines the visitation process and any changes to both parents, so the entire family is kept in the loop when it comes to custody rules.