Can a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation?
Possibly, yes. In Louisiana, there is a general belief that any parent who has a history of family violence will not be awarded sole or joint custody. A “history” of family violence can be multiple incidents or can be a single incident of violence that caused serious physical injury. Custody would only be awarded to the abusive parent if:
- The parent has successfully completed a treatment program;
- The parent is not abusing drugs or alcohol; and
- The parent’s participation is required for the child’s best interest because of the other parent's absence, mental illness, substance abuse, or other circumstances that affect the best interest of the child. (Note: The fact that the abused parent suffers from the effects of the abuse shall not be grounds for denying that parent custody).
If the judge finds that both parents have a history of family violence, custody will be given to the parent who is less likely to continue to commit family violence as long as s/he completes a treatment program ordered by the judge. If necessary to ensure the child’s safety, custody may instead be given to someone else (not the parent) as long as that the person would not allow the child to see the violent parent except as ordered by the court.
If the judge finds a history of family violence, supervised visitation will be allowed only if the parent completes a treatment program. After s/he completes treatment, s/he can get unsupervised visitation only if there is significant evidence that visitation is in the child's best interest and that the violent parent:
- completed a treatment program;
- is not abusing alcohol and drugs; and
- is not a danger to the child.1
Note: If a judge finds evidence that the parent sexually abused the child, that parent cannot get unsupervised visitation or contact with the child. The only way to get supervised visitation is for the abusive parent to prove at a hearing that s/he successfully completed a treatment program designed for sexual abusers, and that supervised visitation is in the child's best interest.1
Furthermore, if the child was conceived through felony rape, the parent who committed the felony rape cannot get any visitation rights or contact with the child. Also, if an abuser kills the other parent of the child, the abuser's relatives cannot get visitation rights or contact with the child.2
It is recommended that you seek legal advice from a lawyer to assist you in a custody case involving domestic violence issues. For information on how to find a lawyer see our LA Finding a Lawyer page.
1 LA R.S. 9:364
2 LSA-C.C. Art. 137