Under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA), domestic violence is defined as the actual or threat of physical, emotional, sexual, or economic abuse of a person by another person with whom they have or have had an intimate relationship. This relationship must be either marriage, divorce, separation, cohabitation, dating, or someone with whom the victim has — or anticipates having — a child in common.
In cases where there is an existing child custody agreement and it has been proven that a parent committed an act of domestic violence against his or her former spouse or child, New Jersey courts have the power to change custody and/or visitation rights of the offending parent. In making that decision, a court will consider these factors:
- Who were the victims of the domestic abuse — the co-parent, the children, or both?
- Does the offender still pose a threat to the co-parent or children?
- Does the offender have a history of domestic violence?
- Does the offender have a criminal record or any pending criminal cases against him or her?
- Did the domestic violence incident occur once or is there a pattern of abuse?
- Were there any injuries that occurred due to the act of domestic violence?
- The testimony of law enforcement, witnesses, or any other concerned parties
Depending on the findings in the case, the court may order the offender to undergo anger management training, seek therapy, or take parenting classes. The offender’s custody or visitation rights may be suspended during this rehabilitation period. In more serious cases, the court may revoke an offender’s custody and visitation rights.
However, if the domestic violence accusation is found to be false, the court may consider limiting or denying the child custody or visitation rights of the accuser. Courts make legal decisions concerning minor children based on the child’s best interests, and a parent who would make false accusations of domestic violence against another parent is not acting in the best interests of the child. Making a false accusation of domestic violence is a serious matter, as it can destroy a good reputation and put the falsely accused at serious risk of losing their rights in a divorce or custody case.
We know that family law issues are often difficult, life-changing events. We also know how much it helps to have knowledgeable legal advocates on your side to help you obtain the best possible outcome. Contact us today for your free consultation.