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Domestic violence, child custody and the rebuttable presumption

For any number of reasons, many Louisianans find themselves in an abusive relationship. The abuse itself can take many forms, including emotional and physical, and the severity can also range widely. However, domestic violence of any kind is unacceptable, and those subjected to it should seek legal assistance to put it to a stop. But how can domestic violence affect a victim's children?

Domestic violence may certainly come into play when child custody becomes an issue. In Louisiana, state law provides a rebuttable presumption that awarding sole custody or joint custody to a perpetrator of domestic violence is not in the best interests of the child, if certain conditions exist. In order to initiate the presumption, a parent who is the victim of domestic violence must show that there is a history of family violence. This element can be satisfied by showing that there has been more than one instance of domestic violence, or that there was one instance that resulted in serious injury.

However, since this is a rebuttable presumption, the parent who is the alleged perpetrator of domestic violence may provide proof in an attempt to rebut. In order to do so successfully, that parent must show, by a preponderance of the evidence, several factors, including that he or she is not abusing drugs or alcohol, has completed a program of treatments and that the perpetrator's participation in the child's life supports the best interests of the child.

This blog post is merely a brief explanation of how the law applies in these situations, and should not be construed as legal advice. The law, in fact, is much more nuanced, which can give rise to many legal challenges. With that in mind, those facing challenging child custody issues may benefit from discussing the matter with an experienced family law attorney.

Source: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, "Rebuttable Presumption States," accessed on Oct. 30, 2015

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