Can a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation?
The judge is supposed to consider each parent’s or household member’s past and present violent or abusive conduct when deciding custody and visitation matters,1 but the judge will also consider many other factors. However, when a parent (or another party) seeks any form of custody, the judge must consider if the parent or a member of his/her household has been convicted of or has pleaded guilty (or “no contest”) to any of the crimes listed in section 5329 of the law or to a similar crime in another state. The judge has to consider such criminal conduct and determine that the parent does not pose a threat of harm to the child before making an order of custody, partial custody or visitation to that parent.2
Note: There are certain crimes that would make it very difficult for a parent to get custody. If a parent is convicted of murdering the other parent, however, s/he cannot get custody, partial custody or supervised physical custody (unless the child is of suitable age and consents to the order.)3 Also, if the parent was convicted of a sexual offense that caused the child to be conceived, the offender-parent may not be able to get custody. For more information, go to If my child was conceived from sexual assault, can the offender get custody or visitation?
In addition, the judge must consider child abuse when determining custody. If the child was the subject of an indicated or founded report of child abuse, the judge must consider whether a party or a member of the party’s household has been identified as the perpetrator and the date and circumstances of the child abuse. The judge must also consider whether or not the person seeking custody or a member of his/her household was ever provided services by Child Protective Services and the circumstances surrounding those services.4
1 23 Pa.C.S. § 5328(a)(2)
2 23 Pa.C.S. § 5329(a)
3 23 Pa.C.S. § 5329(b)
4 23 Pa.C.S. § 5329.1(a), (1)(b)