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Domestic violence, divorce and child custody

Massachusetts parents divorce for a variety of reasons. In some cases, a marriage ends because one spouse was physically abusive to the other one. When parents divorce because of domestic violence, child custody issues can be complicated, and it is not always easy to predict which parent will get primary physical custody.

Domestic violence can be very traumatizing for the parent who is abused and the children who witness the behavior. Children who have seen one of their parents being physically abused in their home may grow up with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. At the same time, a parent who has been a victim of domestic violence could have PTSD and other mental health issues directly related to the abuse.

People often assume that a parent who has been physically abused will automatically get custody of their children. In fact, parents who have been battered may have severe depression and anxiety, and a judge could deem them unfit to handle the responsibility of caring for their children full-time. Unless the abusive parent was abusive to the children, a history of domestic violence does not necessarily mean that the parent cannot have custody or visitation rights after a divorce.

A parent who is going through a divorce with an abusive spouse may want to have an attorney's help to petition for temporary restraining orders. An attorney may also be able to help a parent to petition for a temporary child custody order before the hearing on child custody takes place. In many divorce cases, a temporary child custody order sets a precedent for the final child custody determination.

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