Can an Abusive Parent Maintain Visitations?

My ex-boyfriend has a heart condition and started drinking heavily which caused an interaction with his medication. One night he was very agitated and began hitting me and choked our daughter. He has a criminal record for domestic violence against us. Presently, he is in jail, but will be released in a year. He has sent letters saying that he wants to have visitation with our daughter when he is released.

Unfortunately, this family’s story is not unique. Many families face similar situations every day. The most common question posed to me is “Will the original visitation orders be in effect when he or she is released?”

Typically, there will be restraining orders that will protect you and the children from having contact with the abuser for a number of years. However, until orders are superseded, they remain enforceable. This means that if you have orders for the abusive parent to have visitation every other weekend, once the restraining order expires, the abusive parent will go back to having visitation every other weekend.

If you believe that there is a danger to your child, you should not release them to the other parent. Rather, you should file an ex-parte (emergency) hearing with the court requesting no visitation, sole legal custody and sole physical custody. In Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, the court may grant your request without you appearing, or may schedule your hearing for the day after filing the request to be heard on the matter.

In anticipation of the release, you should return to court to make or modify orders. Depending on the circumstances, the court will likely modify or make orders prohibiting the abuser from having visitations, granting supervised visitation, or some kind of step-up plan. It is important to be very detailed with your pleadings and to provide as much proof as possible when requesting to limit or prevent a parent from having visitations. If you are ordered to attend Child Custody Recommending Counseling, you can have your session separate from that of the abuser upon request.

The court’s primary concern is the best interest of children. It will likely require reports from experts and/or mediators to ensure an objective ruling on the best interest of the children.

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