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Laura Dale & Associates, P.C.

Domestic abuse and physical custody awards

While the common perception is that mothers in Texas and around the country are far more likely to be awarded primary physical custody of their young children by a family law judge, this has been changing in recent years. Most courts now believe that having equal access to both parents is in a child's best interests after the divorce has been finalized. However, it may come as a surprise that many courts still grant at least partial custody to fathers who have been accused of domestic violence or child abuse.

In one Maryland case, a mother became concerned when she noticed her toddler acting inappropriately with his younger sibling. After she questioned him, the 4-year-old boy admitted that he had been sexually abused by his father. Shortly thereafter, she and her children relocated to another state to be closer to her family. Eventually, the older child disclosed to a social worker that his dad had abused him as well.

After returning to Maryland, she filed for divorce and requested custody of both children. To her surprise and shock, the judge hearing the case would not admit the social worker's letter confirming the victim's allegations into evidence. In addition, a custody evaluator who had been appointed by the court testified that there was a conflict between the letter and the social worker's contemporaneous notes and that the mother had been coaching her son. Ultimately, the father was granted sole legal custody and shared physical custody.

Child custody disputes can be difficult on both parents and their young offspring. Courts primarily make their determinations based on what they consider to be in a child's best interests, and parents should adhere to this standard as well when they are attempting to negotiate a settlement with the help of their respective attorneys.

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