Many divorces and other separations happen because one of the parents or the child has been a victim of domestic violence at the hands of the other parent.

While comparatively rare, there are also plenty of incidents in which one parent will falsely accuse the other parent of family violence or, at best, grossly exaggerate a parent’s shortcomings.

Allegations of domestic violence and child custody

When deciding custody, judges must consider evidence of what the law calls family violence. A judge has broad leeway to do so. In fact, a judge has to consider evidence of family violence even when there has been no criminal conviction or any other credible allegation.

If the judge deciding custody determines there has been family violence, then she must make her first priority the safety and well-being of both the child and the parent.

In other words, any idea that both parents should have the ability to see and make decisions about the child effectively goes out the window when there is a credible allegation of family violence.

An allegation of family violence can lead to supervised visits

Additionally, another provision of Georgia law allows a judge to grant restricted visits if he finds that a parent has committed an act of family violence.

Again, the accused parent does not have to have been convicted of a crime in order to be held accountable for family violence.

If the judge finds that a parent has committed family violence against the child or the other parent, then his first priority when awarding visits will be to protect innocent parties.

In some cases, the judge may decide to give no visitation at all. In other cases, the judge may order supervised visits which, if they cost, will be at the parent’s expense.

The judge can also mandate counseling or take other steps which can make it hard for a parent to develop a relationship with his child.

The bottom line is that a parent in suburban Atlanta who is facing an allegation of domestic violence in a child custody dispute, or who has been a victim or wants to protect her children from further abuse, should explore all legal options carefully.