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Domestic Violence

Protect Your Family with a Grand Rapids Domestic Violence Lawyer

Domestic violence is one of the most serious issues anyone can face in a relationship. Far from being rare or an isolated occurrence, domestic violence is disturbingly common. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Overall, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, while 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced “severe” physical violence, which includes violence such as beating, burning, and strangling. These statistics do not take into consideration, the emotional and financial abuse that occur at alarming rates between intimate partners. Below is an overview of domestic violence, how to protect yourself from it, and what it can mean in child custody determinations. If you have been the victim of domestic violence, please contact a Grand Rapids domestic violence lawyer.

What Is Considered Domestic Violence in Michigan?

Domestic violence refers to abusive behavior that is part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. Some common forms of physical domestic abuse include:

  • Battery, such as hitting, kicking, biting, slapping, shaking, burning, or scratching the victim
  • Sexual battery, including rape, sodomy, and forcing the victim to have sex with others
  • Withholding of physical essentials from the victim, such as food, money, medication, or transportation
  • Restraining the victim against his or her will
  • Asserting physical dominance by hitting walls, kicking doors, or throwing things during arguments

But domestic violence need not always be physical. In some cases, it can also take the form of emotional abuse, financial abuse, and intimidation, including:

  • Insulting and criticizing the victim to undermine his or her self-esteem
  • Threatening violence against the victim or his or her children or pets
  • Isolating the victim from social interaction
  • Monitoring the victim’s movements, internet traffic, and phone calls and text messages
  • Forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol
  • Exercising rigid control over or eliminating access to the victim’s finances

If you have experienced any of the above behaviors, you may have been a victim of domestic violence. Please contact a Grand Rapids domestic violence attorney to discuss your situation in more detail.

Protect Yourself from Domestic Violence with a Protective Order

Individuals who are victims of domestic violence may petition a court for a personal protective order (PPO) — also known as a “restraining order” — that prohibits the abuser from engaging in several types of conduct, including but not limited to:

  • Entering onto the petitioner’s premises
  • Assaulting, attacking, beating, molesting, or wounding the petitioner
  • Threatening to kill or physically injure the petitioner
  • Removing minor children from the individual having legal custody of the children
  • Purchasing or possessing a firearm
  • Interfering with the petitioner’s efforts to remove his or her children or personal property from premises that are solely owned or leased by the individual to be restrained
  • Interfering with the petitioner’s place of employment or education
  • Harming or threatening to harm the petitioner’s pets for the purposes of causing mental distress

To obtain a PPO, the petitioner must show that there is reasonable cause that the individual to be restrained is likely to commit one or more of the above acts. When determining whether reasonable cause exists, the court will consider:

  1. Testimony, documents, or other evidence offered in support of the petition (official documentation — such as police and medical reports — and physical evidence of abuse are not required as evidence when petitioning the court for a PPO), and
  2. Whether the individual to be restrained has previously committed or threaten to commit one or more of the above acts

While a PPO cannot physically prevent abusers from engaging in any of the above-prohibited behaviors, it allows for their warrantless arrest should a police officer have reasonable cause to believe that they have done so. A Grand Rapids domestic violence lawyer can help you determine whether seeking a PPO is the best option for you.

Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody Determinations?

As with all legal issues, the answer to the question of whether domestic violence affects child custody is “it depends.” Domestic violence certainly exposes its perpetrators to criminal and civil liability, but its effects on child custody are murkier. When determining child custody, courts are guided by the best interests of the child, and courts presume that awarding custody to one or both of the child’s biological parents is in the child’s best interests. Other relevant factors that courts consider when determining what is in the child’s best interests include:

  • Love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  • The moral fitness of the parties involved.
  • The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
  • Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
  • Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

While courts do take domestic violence into account when determining child custody, it is merely one factor among many. However, the courts have great discretion when applying the statutory best interest factors to the facts of any particular case and are not required to give each factor equal weight. Domestic violence may also have an impact on more than one factor to be considered, such as when evaluating the abuser’s moral fitness, mental health, and ability to provide a satisfactory environment for the child. In cases of minor domestic violence, the court may readily allow for some form of contact with the abuser, while in more extreme cases the court may require the abuser to first complete significant counseling and anger management classes  before granting supervised visitation. Thus, domestic violence can compromise the abuser’s ability to gain child custody, but it is not necessarily a complete bar to it.

For Help, Please Contact a Grand Rapids Domestic Violence Attorney

If you have been a victim of domestic violence or family violence, you should know that you are not without options. For more information about your legal right to be free of domestic violence, particularly if there are children involved, please contact a Grand Rapids domestic violence lawyer at Kraayeveld Law by using our online form or calling us at 616-285-0808.