Whenever the term “domestic violence” comes up, most people think it means when someone is physically harmed. Sadly, many domestic abuse victims also fail to recognize that they are being victimized and lose out on the support they truly need. It’s crucial to understand that domestic abuse or violence can take many forms, including emotional, mental, and of course, physical.
For example, if your partner or spouse tightly controls all the finances and you have absolutely no say in how your (individual or joint) income is spent, that can be construed as domestic abuse. If you live in constant fear that your spouse will hurt you or your children, that’s also abuse.
At Davis Law Group, divorce attorney Jay Davis has successfully handled many cases of domestic violence in Massachusetts over the last couple of decades. His extensive experience in this field has allowed him to develop a solid network and a deep understanding of how judges handle domestic violence cases. If you are concerned that your spouse might cause you serious harm, whether physically or otherwise, please call us at 617-221-3548 or write to us online to schedule a legal consultation.
How Domestic Violence Affects Child Custody Decisions in MA
When it comes to child custody, the Massachusetts’s legislature’s policy is to ensure the welfare, safety, and health of children first and foremost. Under the law, it is dangerous to a child if domestic abuse or violence is being perpetrated in the home they live in. With that said, if one parent claims that the other is abusive, the court must confirm it before awarding custody.
If it is established that the parent in question is indeed abusive, the court start custody decisions with the presumption that they should not have visitation or custody of the child. If the “abusive parent” wants to receive visitation/custody, they must prove to the court that it will be in their child’s best interests. If they can prove it, and the court grants them visitation, both the abused parent and the child will also be provided certain protections, such as:
- The child exchanges may only occur in a protected environment (this could mean the presence of a 3rd party)
- A 3rd party, agency, or visitation center may supervise visitation
- The abusive parent may have to undergo a batterer’s treatment program
- The abusive parent may have to pay supervision costs
- The abusive parent may have to pay a bond to ensure they return the child safely after visitation
- The abusive parent may be ordered to abstain from alcohol and other controlled substances 24 hours before and during visitation
- An attorney may be appointed by the court to represent the child
- An investigation may be ordered by the court to evaluate the child’s living situation
- Overnight visitation may be prohibited
- Other conditions may be imposed as deemed necessary to protect the abused parent and child
- An emergency hearing may be held to remove the visitation or custodial rights of the abusive parent
Is it Possible to Terminate the Parental Rights of the Abusive Parent?
This can happen if it is determined that the abusive parent’s involvement will be detrimental to the child’s physical and/or mental health. Any of the following scenarios can prompt the court to completely terminate a parent’s rights over their children:
- If a parent is convicted of any assault that caused significant bodily injury to a child
- If a parent is convicted of soliciting, conspiring, or attempting to murder or commit manslaughter of the other parent or a child
- If a parent is convicted of manslaughter or murder of the other parent
- If a parent has committed repetitive or severe acts of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse against a child
Even in as serious situations as the ones mentioned here, the judge will only order termination of parental rights after considering the child’s best interest. As a victim in a Massachusetts domestic violence case, you have several rights that you can exercise in your case. Domestic violence attorney Jay Davis regularly represents victims of domestic abuse and knows how to fight for tougher restraining orders. If you think you and your children’s physical safety is at stake, we can also advocate for a residential stay-away protective order on your behalf. Just call us at 617-221-3548 or contact us online to start a conversation.
What Should You Do in a Domestic Violence Situation?
If the abuse is ongoing, you have to take yourself and your children out of it. As per the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 209A, to protect yourself and your kids from further violence, you can seek a restraining order. This document will establish a legal and physical buffer zone between you and the abusive partner.
Another thing you should do is to document your interactions with the abuser, as thoroughly as you can. For example, write down the dates and times when they abused or harmed you. If you were injured, take photographs and retain medical records of that instance. Acquire witness statements and police reports for those incidents that were reported to the cops.
All of this evidence will help the court determine the terms of your divorce (like child custody and visitation) as well as the restraining order. It’s also a prudent idea to make a copy of all your financial records, such as credit card records, bank statements, and tax forms.
Reach Out to a Trusted Domestic Violence Attorney in Massachusetts for Legal Help
Most abusers try to establish control over their victims, which means taking control of the finances, making it hard for victims to seek support. If you are in a similar situation, please understand that you are not alone and help is available. By hiring a capable and resourceful attorney to attain legal protection, you will not only end the abuse, but also have peace of mind knowing your children are safe.
Here at Davis Law Group, we have handled numerous cases like this. If you are open to receiving help, we are here for you. Attorney Jay Davis and his team can help you start the process of moving on from your current life, to a safer and happier one. Get in touch with us online or call us at 617-221-3548 to pursue the justice you deserve.
James H. (Jay) Davis III
Thank you for reading. Need to talk? 617-221-3548