Child Custody, Family Violence, And Divorce
In the past decade and a half, the Georgia Commission on Family Violence (GCFV) estimates that over 2,000 Georgians have lost their lives due to domestic violence. Some of those fatalities occurred under the threat of or during a divorce. Unfortunately, the threat of losing one’s spouse sets off many abusers, and too many spouses are unaware of the potential resources available to them to minimize the stress and potential trauma of the divorce process, including an experienced divorce attorney. If you and your children are in this situation, know that you are not alone.
Family Violence Is A Crime (Indirectly)
Georgia’s definition of family violence is specific, holding that the commission of (1) any felony or certain misdemeanors (including assault, battery, simple assault or battery, stalking, and criminal trespass, among others), (2) against any of a specific list of people, such as spouses, children, co-parents, and others, constitutes domestic or family violence. If a petitioner is able to establish that any of these crimes has been committed against them (or their minor children), they may obtain an order of protection against their abuser.
Additionally, under Georgia law, family violence encompasses more than just acts of physical abuse. Assault, stalking, trespass, and property damage are also considered family violence under Georgia law. Thus, if your spouse or partner subjects you to mental, emotional or verbal abuse, you may be a victim of family violence.
It is important to understand that any crime that can be classified as family violence is still a crime, and can be charged as such. Just because a crime is committed under specific circumstances does not mean it loses its status as an unlawful offense, so it is possible that your soon-to-be ex-spouse will find themselves in criminal trouble as well as having to go through a divorce and custody battle. Keep in mind, however, that if you decide to file for a Georgia divorce based specifically on family violence, it will be considered a divorce “for cause,” meaning that you will have to discuss the abuse and provide evidence of it for the court.
Violence Affects Equitable Division and Custody Determination
In divorce and custody cases where there is a history of family violence, even if there have been no convictions, it will play a role. When a court is considering the issue of child custody, the best interests of the child is controlling, and there is an extensive list of factors under Georgia law that a court can consider in determining child custody. The likelihood of a parent to become violent towards the children in an abusive manner is a major factor that a court must consider, as granting custody to a violent parent is decidedly not in the child’s best interests.
Furthermore, courts can consider conduct when determining equitable division; therefore, depending on the specific facts of your case, you may be granted a larger share of the marital estate due to your spouse’s wrongdoing. Georgia divides in accordance with what is equitable, meaning what is fair. Additionally, if you are granted sole legal and physical custody of the child(ren) due to your spouse’s violence, an award of child support may be larger to compensate for having to care for the child(ren) on a full time basis.
Contact An Atlanta Divorce Attorney
Family violence has a devastating effect on all involved, especially children, and if you are seeking a divorce from an abuser, the stakes are even higher than they would be otherwise. You need an Atlanta divorce attorney who understands how important it is that you and your child(ren) feel safe, and our attorneys at Buckhead Family Law are ready to fight hard to give you and your family a better quality of life than moving forward. Contact our offices today to schedule an appointment.