Can a parent who committed violence get parental rights and responsibilities (custody) or parent-child contact (visitation)?
It is possible, yes. Evidence of abuse, and the impact of abuse on the child is only one of the factors that the court will use in determining parental rights and responsibilities.* It is important to note that for these purposes, "abuse" can be any one of the following: attempting to cause or causing you physical harm; placing you in fear of immediate serious physical harm; child abuse; stalking; or sexual assault.**
Evidence of abuse is considered in the following manner. If the other parent has been convicted of domestic assault against you within the past 10 years or a court found that the parent committed abuse against you, or a member of your family or household, then the judge can only let the abusive parent have contact with the child if protections can be put in place to keep you and the child safe.*** These are some of the protections that the court can order:
- the exchange of the child will occur in a protected setting;
- visitation with the child will be supervised by another person or by an agency (with the agency's fee to be paid by the abuser);
- the abuser must go to counseling;
- the abuser must stop using alcohol or drugs during the visitation and 24 hours before it begins (if alcohol or drugs were involved in the domestic abuse);
- the abuser cannot have overnight visits;
- keeping the address of the child confidential; and
- any other condition to keep you and the child safe.****
Note: If your child was conceived as a result of sexual assault by the other parent, there are different laws that apply. For more information, see If my child was conceived as a result of sexual assault, can the offender get parental rights and responsibilities?
* 15 V.S.A. § 665(b)(9)
** 15 V.S.A. § 1101(1)
*** 15 V.S.A. § 665a(a)
**** 15 V.S.A. § 665a(b), (c)