Facing charges of domestic violence can be terrifying and overwhelming, especially if you have children. Concerns about their well-being and the impact on your relationship with them are likely weighing heavily on your mind. In Indiana, courts prioritize the best interests of the child in all custody decisions, and allegations of domestic violence will be carefully evaluated.

The Impact of Domestic Violence Charges

Facing domestic violence charges can have a substantial impact on your child custody and visitation rights, with the severity of the charges and the evidence presented playing a crucial role. Here’s what the court might take into account:

  • Nature of the Charges: The court will consider the specific charges brought against you, whether they are misdemeanors or felonies, and the alleged acts of violence involved.
  • Evidence: Evidence such as police reports, witness testimonies, medical records, or protective orders can significantly influence the court’s decision.
  • History of Violence: Any previous incidents of domestic violence, even if there were no convictions, can still sway the court’s judgment.

Potential Consequences for Custody and Visitation

Being charged with domestic violence in Indiana can greatly affect your child custody and visitation rights according to Indiana Code § 31-17-2-8. The seriousness of the charges, the evidence against you, and your past behavior all influence the court’s custody decisions. Here’s a closer look at the potential consequences you might face:

Loss of Custody

In the most serious cases, the court may award sole custody to the other parent if they believe your presence poses a significant threat to the child’s safety and well-being. This decision is based on a thorough examination of evidence, including:

  • Severity of the Alleged Violence: The nature of the charges, whether it was a physical assault, threats, or emotional abuse, will be heavily weighed.
  • Presence of Injuries: Medical records documenting injuries sustained by your partner or children can be powerful evidence against you.
  • Witness Statements: Testimonies from bystanders, neighbors, or even your children (depending on their age) can support the allegations.
  • History of Domestic Violence: Prior incidents of domestic violence, even without convictions, can influence the court’s decision.

Supervised Visitation

Even if you retain some custody rights, the court might restrict your visitation to supervised visits. This means you can only see your children in the presence of a court-appointed supervisor, typically a neutral third party like a social worker or therapist. The specifics of supervised visitation vary depending on the circumstances:

  • Frequency and Duration of Visits: The court might limit the number of visits per week or month and the duration of each visit.
  • Location of Visits: Supervised visits might take place at a designated facility or a neutral location like a public park.
  • Qualifications of the Supervisor: The court might require the supervisor to have specific training or qualifications in domestic violence cases.

Limited or No Visitation

In extreme cases, where the court deems your presence a clear and present danger to the child, they may temporarily or permanently restrict your visitation rights altogether. This could happen if:

  • Serious Injuries or Threats: The alleged violence caused significant injuries to your partner or children or involved threats of violence.
  • Multiple Incidents: There’s a documented history of repeated domestic violence incidents.
  • Violation of a Protective Order: You violated a restraining order or protective order issued against you.

Restricted Decision-Making Authority

Even if you retain some visitation rights, the court might limit your decision-making authority regarding the child’s upbringing. This could involve:

  • Shared Decision-Making with Limitations: The court might require you and the other parent to consult and agree on major decisions (e.g., healthcare, education) but give the other parent the final say in certain areas.
  • Sole Decision-Making Authority for the Other Parent: In some cases, the court might award sole decision-making authority to the other parent on critical matters concerning the child’s well-being.

Remember, these are just possible outcomes. The specific result of your case will depend on the unique details and the judge’s discretion. It’s important to consult with an domestic violence attorney in Indiana to understand how your situation might be affected.

Protecting Your Rights

In challenging situations like this, there are steps you can take to safeguard your parental rights. Firstly, it’s crucial to seek out the guidance of a skilled attorney specializing in domestic violence and child custody cases. They can thoroughly assess your circumstances, devise a legal strategy tailored to your needs, and advocate for your rights in court. Secondly, work closely with your attorney to address the domestic violence charges against you.

This may involve complying with court orders, such as enrolling in anger management programs or attending counseling sessions. Lastly, if it’s safe and permitted by court order, strive to maintain a positive relationship with your children. Keeping communication channels open through phone calls, letters, or video chats can help preserve your bond with them during this challenging period.

Important Considerations

While this provides a broad overview, it’s important to recognize that each case is unique. Nevertheless, there are some essential points to keep in mind:

  • Focus on Your Children’s Safety: Your children’s safety should always be the top priority. If there’s violence in the picture, ensure their well-being comes first.
  • Cooperation is Key: It’s crucial to cooperate with court orders, social services (if they’re involved), and your attorney. This shows your dedication to handling the situation responsibly.
  • Seek Support: Dealing with domestic violence charges can take a toll emotionally. Consider seeking individual therapy or joining support groups to help you navigate this challenging time.

Remember, you are not alone. Resources are available to help you navigate this difficult situation:

For those facing domestic violence charges in Indiana, there are valuable resources available to assist you. The Indiana Legal Services Organization offers free or low-cost legal assistance to low-income Hoosiers, helping navigate the complexities of the legal system. Additionally, the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides a 24/7 hotline along with various resources and support services to help individuals dealing with domestic violence charges. Although this is a challenging time, with the right legal guidance and a focus on your children’s safety, you can take steps to protect your parental rights and potentially rebuild a positive relationship with your children in the future.