How Domestic Violence Affects Child Custody in Idaho

Learn more about domestic violence and how it impacts child custody in Idaho.

Victims of domestic violence make more than 16,000 crisis calls to domestic violence shelters in Idaho each year. Domestic violence is a serious problem that affects children as well as victims. Each state has laws to protect children from abusive parents, particularly when custody is at stake.

This article gives an overview of how Idaho courts decide custody when a parent has committed domestic violence. If you have additional questions after reading this article,  consult a local family law attorney for help.

Child Custody in Idaho

In each custody case, Idaho judges must decide “legal custody,” or how parents divide decision-making responsibilities regarding a child’s health, education, and general welfare, and “physical custody,” or the child’s legal residence and how much time he or she will spend in each parent’s care.

When determining legal and physical custody, courts can consider all of the following factors:

  • the wishes of the child’s parents
  • the wishes of the child
  • the child’s relationship with each parent and his or her siblings
  • the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
  • the character and circumstances of all individuals involved
  • the child’s need for continuity and stability, and
  • domestic violence, whether the child witnesses it or not.

What is Domestic Violence?

Idaho law defines domestic violence as violence between a family or household member, parent and child, or between two people that are dating, including any of the following acts:

  • physical injury
  • sexual abuse
  • forced imprisonment, or
  • threats of injury, sexual abuse, or forced imprisonment.

What to Do When There is Domestic Violence

If your child’s parent has just committed domestic violence, or someone in your household is in immediate danger, you should dial 911 for help.

If you are not in immediate danger, but you are afraid of future violence in your home, you should apply for a “Temporary Protection Order,” or “TPO.” A TPO is a court order that can provide any or all of the following protections:

  • award you temporary custody of any children
  • order the abusive parent to refrain from committing domestic violence, harassing, telephoning, or otherwise contacting you
  • order the abusive parent to stay more than 1500 feet from you, your residence, your school, your job, and any other place necessary
  • order the abuser to complete domestic violence treatment and/or counseling, and
  • order any other conditions a judge believes are necessary to protect you and your household from the abusive parent.

You can apply for a TPO by going to your  county district court  and asking the clerk for a “Petition For A Protection Order.” You may file the petition in the county where your abuser lives, where you live, or where you temporarily live if you have left your residence. You can meet with a judge the same day, who will issue a TPO if he or she believes you are in danger.

The court will schedule a hearing within 14 days of the date you file the petition. Both you and your abuser must attend the hearing. If you prove you are still in danger, the judge can extend the protection order for up to one year. If your abuser disobeys the protection order, he or she can be arrested and sentenced to jail time plus a fine. If you hire an attorney for the hearing, the court can also order your abuser to pay your attorney’s fees.

Idaho has other resources for victims of domestic violence.  Idaho Legal Aid  has a domestic violence 24-hour advice hotline. You can also find information and other resources at the websites for the  Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victim Assistance, and the  Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.

Impact of Domestic Violence on Custody Decisions

Idaho courts start custody decisions with a presumption that a parent who has repeatedly committed domestic violence should not have custody of the child. At the beginning of each custody case, each parent is required to alert the court to either parent’s court proceedings relating to domestic violence, protective orders or termination or parental rights, whether in the past or present.

If either spouse claims that the other parent has committed domestic violence, the court must decide if the violence occurred before awarding custody. Also, if either spouse alleges child abuse or child sexual abuse, the court must order the department of health and welfare to investigate. The judge can’t award custody until the investigation is complete.

If a judge finds that a parent has committed domestic violence, he or she can order protections to ensure the safety of the child and abused parent, such as limited or supervised visitation.

If a parent has been absent from the child’s household to avoid domestic violence, the court won’t hold that against the parent when deciding custody. Also, if a parent used self-defense against an abusive parent, the court won’t consider that domestic violence.

Supervised Visitation

In Idaho, judges may order supervised visitation to protect a child and parent from an abusive parent. The judge may order that any visitation be supervised by a non-professional provider, a professional provider, or a therapeutic provider.

The non-professional supervisor is usually a family member or friend that is present to monitor visitation. Professional and therapeutic providers are court-appointed, specially trained, and usually charge a fee for supervising visitation. The court can order the abusive parent to pay the supervision fees.

Termination of Parental Rights

Idaho courts may order termination of parental rights in rare and serious cases of abuse. A judge can terminate the child-parent relationship when:

  • a parent neglects or abuses the child such that continuing the child-parent relationship would risk the health of the child
  • a parent sexually abuses the child
  • a parent tortures or batters a child resulting in serious bodily injury, or attempts manslaughter on a child, or
  • a parent has committed murder, aided and abetted a murder, or solicited a murder.

If you have other questions about domestic violence and child custody in Idaho, contact a local family law attorney.

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