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Understand How Domestic Violence Can Impact Child Custody

Domestic violence charges should never be taken lightly, but they can be especially concerning if a person accused of committing a domestic violence crime has a child. Domestic violence crimes differ from other crimes in that they can directly affect the alleged offender’s custodial rights. If you have a child and are charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is critical to retain an assertive Tacoma domestic violence lawyer to help you defend your parental rights.

The criminal law attorneys at The Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC, understand the potential impact of domestic violence on child custody. We will work tirelessly to help you formulate a compelling defense to your domestic violence charges. We assist people charged with domestic violence in Pierce, King, Kitsap and Thurston counties.

Domestic Violence Charges Can Be Raised Based On A Number Of Circumstances

Under Washington law, several criminal offenses can constitute domestic violence. Section 26.50.010 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) establishes that when a person causes physical harm or an injury to a member of his or her household or family, or places such a person in fear of such harm or injury, it is an act of domestic violence. Section 26.50.010 also defines stalking, assault and sexual assault of one household or family member by another as domestic violence.

Additionally, there are multiple enumerated crimes that RCW 10.99.020 defines as domestic violence crimes when they are committed by a person against a member of his or her household or family, including assault, kidnapping, harassment and violating a protection order. Domestic violence crimes are not limited to the offenses listed in RCW 10.99.020, however, but can be any crime that falls under the definition of domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Charges Can Be Addressed In Your Child Custody Case

A domestic violence charge can dramatically impair a person’s right to access his or her child. If a person is accused of a crime of domestic violence, several statutes permit the courts to restrict the person’s right to contact his or her victim and to restrict access to the person’s child. For example, RCW 26.50.070 permits a court to enter a temporary ex parte order for protection, prohibiting the alleged offender from contacting the victim or the victim’s children, or from entering a mutual home that the parties share. Additionally, if a person restricted by a no-contact order violates the order, the violation is considered a crime of domestic violence.

In addition to the temporary restrictions that may be imposed when a person is accused of a crime of domestic violence, a person’s right to custody of his or her child can be permanently impaired by a domestic violence conviction. In Washington, what is generally called legal custody is known as decision making, and what is generally called physical custody is known as residential time.

RCW 26.09.191 sets forth several restrictions limiting a court’s ability to grant certain parental rights when developing a temporary or permanent parenting plan in cases in which one parent has a history of domestic violence. Specifically, in any action in which a court is determining a parenting plan, the court must limit a parent’s residential time with the child if it is determined that the parent has a history of acts of domestic violence. Additionally, a court will not grant mutual decision-making authority if one party has committed acts of domestic violence.

If you are a Washington resident accused of committing a crime of domestic violence, it is essential to meet with a skillful defense attorney to examine the impact of domestic violence on child custody in your case.

Speak With A Trusted Tacoma Attorney About Your Case

The proficient domestic violence defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC, can craft compelling arguments to help you try to avoid a conviction and protect your right to custody of your child. Our primary office is located in Tacoma, and we can meet by appointment at our secondary office in Vashon. We can be contacted through our online form or at 253-363-8662 to schedule a confidential and free meeting to discuss your case.