Domestic Violence and Child Custody

By James Jennings

Domestic Violence

Marriages end for many reasons. Well at least that has been my experience over the last 20 years of helping people in Arizona with divorce and legal separations.  The stories I could tell could fill volumes.  Some end because of drug addition, some because of a cheating spouse and some because of domestic violence.  It’s the latter that I want to talk about; domestic violence.  More to the point I want to speak about how domestic violence has far reaching effects regarding child custody in Arizona.

If domestic violence has occurred there is a presumption in Arizona that joint custody, or what Arizona now calls joint legal decision making authority is not possible.  Ariz.Rev.Stat. §25-403.03(A) states:

… joint legal decision-making shall not be awarded if the court makes a finding of the existence of significant domestic violence pursuant to section 13-3601 or if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that there has been a significant history of domestic violence.

So what is the reasoning behind this law?  Arizona feels that if the child’s mother’s and father’s relationship has degraded to the point of physical violence then how would it be possible for the parents to work together in the upbringing of their child.  Joint custody after all by its very definition means that parents can work together.  If the parents are pounding on each other then obviously that isn’t possible.    In other words it is not in the best interest of the child for the court to issue a joint legal decision making order.  This is pointed out in the the second part of Ariz.Rev.Stat. §25-403.03 in Section B.

The court shall consider evidence of domestic violence as being contrary to the best interests of the child. The court shall consider the safety and well-being of the child and of the victim of the act of domestic violence to be of primary importance. The court shall consider a perpetrator’s history of causing or threatening to cause physical harm to another person.

So if you are trying to get sole legal decision making authority or what most people call sole custody what kind of evidence might persuade a court in ruling in your favor?  Well let’s look at the third part of Ariz.Rev.Stat. §25-403.03 in Section C.

To determine if a person has committed an act of domestic violence the court, subject to the rules of evidence, shall consider all relevant factors including the following:

1. Findings from another court of competent jurisdiction.

2. Police reports.

3. Medical reports.

4. Records of the department of child safety.

5. Domestic violence shelter records.

6. School records.

7. Witness testimony.

dsc2330-975x500When people come to us to prepare Discloser Statements prior to trial we typically include some of those exhibits mentioned above.

Domestic violence has far reaching consequences other than just that of child custody.  It can also effect parenting time or what some people like to call visitation. I personally have never liked the term “visitation”.  How can a parent visit their child?

If domestic violence has occurred and the parent that has been found to have committed significant domestic violence that impedes the child’s development or endangers the child, then they could find that their parenting time with their child has been severely restricted or find themselves having been awarded supervised parenting time according to Section F.

If the court finds that a parent has committed an act of domestic violence, that parent has the burden of proving to the court’s satisfaction that parenting time will not endanger the child or significantly impair the child’s emotional development. If the parent meets this burden to the court’s satisfaction, the court shall place conditions on parenting time that best protect the child and the other parent from further harm. The court may:

1. Order that an exchange of the child must occur in a protected setting as specified by the court.

2. Order that an agency specified by the court must supervise parenting time. If the court allows a family or household member to supervise parenting time, the court shall establish conditions that this person must follow during parenting time.

3. Order the parent who committed the act of domestic violence to attend and complete, to the court’s satisfaction, a program of intervention for perpetrators of domestic violence and any other counseling the court orders.

4. Order the parent who committed the act of domestic violence to abstain from possessing or consuming alcohol or controlled substances during parenting time and for twenty-four hours before parenting time.

5. Order the parent who committed the act of domestic violence to pay a fee for the costs of supervised parenting time.

6. Prohibit overnight parenting time.

7. Require a bond from the parent who committed the act of domestic violence for the child’s safe return.

8. Order that the address of the child and the other parent remain confidential.

9. Impose any other condition that the court determines is necessary to protect the child, the other parent and any other family or household member.

As one can see.  Arizona takes domestic violence very serious.  Not only is it a crime that can include prison time and fines, but it has far reaching consequences regarding child custody and parenting decisions when the Court addresses those issues in a divorce or custody matter.

If you have any questions regarding a specific legal matter or legal strategy you should contact an attorney for legal advice.  If you would like to get started on a divorce or custody case call us today, 602-896-9020, email us at, or visit our website at


Author: arizonadivorcebankruptcy

We are the legal document and case management solution you are looking for. Discount Divorce and Bankruptcy is the only service in the industry that prepares your legal documents for you AND manages your case from beginning to end. We have successfully handled an estimated 12,000 family law cases (divorce, legal separation, annulment, child support, parental visitation, custody modifications, and much much more) and some 5,000 chapter 7 bankruptcy matters for Arizona families.

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