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Legal Information: U.S. Virgin Islands


December 7, 2020

What factors will a judge consider when deciding custody and visitation when there is domestic violence?

In addition to any other factors that a judge may consider in determining custody or visitation, if the judge determines that there has been domestic violence, the just has to consider each of the following:

  • The safety and well-being of the child and of the parent who is the victim of domestic violence;
  • The abuser’s history of causing physical harm, bodily injury, assault (or causing reasonable fear of any of these) to another person;
  • If a parent is absent or relocates because of an act of domestic violence by the other parent, this cannot be held against the parent in determining the custody or visitation.1

In addition, if a judge determines that 1) domestic violence has occurred, 2) that one parent has been convicted for the death of the other parent, or 3) that the child has been conceived by rape, the judge will assume it is not in the best interest of the child to remain with parent who has committed such violence.  The judge will assume that it is in the best interest of the child to reside with the other parent in the location of that parent’s choice (either in the USVI or in another state/territory) but the offender/parent can present evidence to try to change the judge’s mind.2 

When deciding whether or not to allow visitation by a parent who committed domestic violence, the judge can allow visitation only if the judge believes that sufficient protections can be put in place to keep the child and the non-abusive parent safe.  The judge can do any of the following:

  1. order the exchange of the child to be in a protected setting;
  2. order the visitation to be supervised (and order the abuser to pay for some/all of the cost of the supervised visitation);
  3. order the abuser to attend/complete a batterers’ intervention program or other counseling as a condition of visitation;
  4. order the abuser to not drink alcohol or use drugs during the visitation and for 24 hours before the visitation;
  5. prohibit overnight visitation;
  6. require the abuser to post a bond (money) to ensure that s/he returns the child to the other parent and keeps the child safe; and
  7. require anything else that is considered necessary to provide for the safety of the child, the victim of domestic violence, or another family or household member.3

1 16 V.I.C. § 109(c)
2 16 V.I.C. § 109(b)
3 16 V.I.C. § 109(d)