Domestic violence can complicate child visitation. Below are some commonly expressed concerns, as well as answers under South Carolina law.
My Spouse Has Committed Domestic Violence. How Can the Courts Protect My Children?
There are certain situations where the abuse is so heinous that the only option the court has is to prevent any visitation at all. However, South Carolina recognizes the value of having a relationship with both parents in most cases. As such, the court may allow for visitation, but implement certain restrictions designed to ensure the safety of the non-abusing parent, as well as the children.
Every case involves a delicate balancing of the interests of the parties. Nothing can guarantee complete safety. There are, however, certain steps the court can take to increase the likelihood you and your child remain safe. Under South Carolina Statute § 63-15-50, visitation will only be awarded “if the court finds that adequate provision for the safety of the child and the victim of domestic violence can be made.”
What Do I Need to Prove To Establish I Am a Victim of Domestic Violence?
South Carolina law allows for courts to consider convictions for domestic violence under South Carolina Statute § 16-25-20 and § 16-25-65. This includes abuse, domestic violence, and violating a restraining order to commit domestic violence. However, it is not limited to domestic violence convictions. If the family court finds that someone has engaged in conduct that meets the elements outlined by the statutes referenced, this is a sufficient basis to limit visitation.
What Steps Can The Court Can Take To Keep the Family Safe?
In situations where there has been domestic violence, the court can take a number of steps to ensure your safety and the safety of your children. As a preliminary matter, in the visitation order, the court can require the exchange of the child to take place in a “protective setting.”
The courts can also order that visitation be supervised. Sometimes, the court will order the visitation be supervised by a specific, usually agreed upon person the parties know. When the court allows another household member to supervise visitation, the court establishes conditions that must be followed during the visitation. This could include requiring the supervisor to be in the same room as the parent and child. It could limit the use of substances in front of the child. In these orders, the court takes into consideration the specifics of the case. At all times, the goal is to keep the child safe, while allowing for meaningful visitation
Other times, however, the visitation will be supervised by an agency that specializes is supervised visitation. The decision of who supervises the visits is based upon the facts and circumstances of each individual case. In cases where the visitation is supervised by an agency, the court can order the offender to pay a fee. This is designed to defray the cost of supervised visitation.
What Steps the Court Can Take To Change the Family Dynamic?
Courts have the power to order counseling for people who have committed domestic violence. Sometimes the court orders the offender to attend a program specifically designed for people who have committed domestic violence. Other times, the court orders individual counseling for the offender. This can be based on the facts surrounding the domestic violence. But it can also be based on the parties themselves. Some people respond better to group therapy, while other families may find that an individual counselor on anger management works best.
What Steps the Court Can Take to Reduce the Likelihood of Abuse?
- Limiting the Use of Intoxicants. The use of chemical intoxicants, such as drugs or alcohol, can fuel the fire of domestic abuse. As such, courts are allowed to order, as a condition of visitation, the offender abstain from the possession of drugs or alcohol, as well as the use of same. This order is not just during the hours of the visit, but can be ordered for 24 hours prior to the visitation.
- Limiting the Length of Visitation. The court has the right to prohibit overnight visitation. This limiting of visitation requires a careful balance between the child’s interest in having an ongoing relationship with each parent against the need for children to be safe in their environment.
- Keeping Information Confidential. If the situation merits it, the court can order the address of the child and the victim to be confidential. This would not only refer to the court file. The court can prohibit the offender from asking the child about where they are living. The court may also order the supervisor to step in and prevent the child from answering if the offender does ask.
What if My Child is Injured?
If your child is injured during visitation, you should first file a police report, documenting the incident. You should also consider taking pictures of the injuries. Finally, you should take your child to the doctor to seek medical care, where appropriate. The laws of South Carolina require the court to order the cost of medical care be borne by the abuser. But it doesn’t stop at medical care. The statute also provides for psychological care. The offender can be required to pay those expenses as well.
What you should not do is confront your child’s abuser directly. This person has established they are not safe. Protect your child by protecting yourself.
The most important next step is to contact a family law lawyer who can assist you in seeking a modification to the visitation order. Depending on the facts and circumstances of any given case, the attorney may be able to seek emergency relief from the court as well as long lasting remedies.
If You Have Been Abused
If you have been abused by the parent of your children, you need an attorney on your side who can work to put procedures into place to keep you and your children safer. It is not uncommon for a victim of domestic violence to be ashamed, and refuse to discuss the abuse. When setting up the terms of visitation of the children, this is not the time to be ashamed. Your experienced Greenville Family Law attorneys are sensitive to the very real issues of domestic violence. They can help you set up the most favorable visitation schedule. Contact the law office of Elliott Frazier Law Firm, LLC to talk to the committed visitation law attorneys at our firm.
Angela Elliot Frazier is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years now. Angela Frazier believes in helping you through one of the most stressful times of your life. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.