Domestic Violence’s Impact on Spending Time with Your Children

As a family law/divorce attorney in Vancouver, Clark County, WA, I am frequently asked about how someone with a domestic violence history may be treated by the court when in a custody battle, i.e. trying to establish a parenting plan.  Well under RCW 26.09.191 proven domestic violence can greatly impact a parent’s time with their child or children in a number of situations. This article will focus on situations involving domestic violence and how it can limit a parenting plan:  First, under Washington law, a permanent parenting plan shall not require mutual decision-making for both parents or require a dispute resolution process (mediation, arbitration, etc.) other than going to court if it is found that one  parent has committed an act of domestic violence a history of acts of domestic violence as defined in RCW 26.50.010(3)
 
*RCW 26.50.010(3) defines domestic violence as: “‘Domestic violence’ means: (a) Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members; (b) sexual assault of one family or household member by another; or (c) stalking as defined in RCW 9A.46.110 of one family or household member by another family or household member.”

​Next, a parent’s residential time with the child shall be limited (the court must limit the parenting time) if it is found that a parent has engaged in a history of acts of domestic violence as defined in RCW 26.50.010(3)* (see definition above).
 
Further, even if the parent themselves has no domestic violence history, their parenting time can be limited if a person they reside with has a history of acts of domestic violence as defined in RCW 26.50.010(3)* (see definition above).

Domestic Violence Parenting Plan Court Requirements

​Case law has also shed some light on the above statute when it comes to domestic violence.  Specifically, even if the level of the domestic violence incident is not severe, the court must place restrictions on the parenting plan for the offending party.  When the court finds a “history of domestic violence,” regardless of severity, restrictions are mandatory. In re Marriage of Caven, 136 Wn.2d 800 (1998). Though not all forms or levels of domestic violence as defined in RCW 26.50.010 (for example an individual assault, threats where there is not a pattern or serious bodily harm or fear of such harm) will trigger application of the “mandatory restrictions” of the statute. The court must first find the existence of either “a history of acts of domestic violence as defined under RCW 26.50.010(1)” Consequently, even if a parent committed a DV act, it is possible that no mandatory restrictions will be required by the court against that parent because the DV act was not sufficiently egregious and also was not part of a history or pattern as required under Washington law.   Though, mandatory restrictions could be required even if a parent has not been convicted of assault or other DV crime, because the other parent is able to prove it with other forms of evidence.  

Domestic Violence Offense Specifics

​Domestic violence is a very real and serious thing in today’s world.  At the same time, just because someone has been convicted of a “domestic violence” crime, doesn’t mean that they will have their parenting time limited under RCW 26.09.191.  As stated above, the court must find that the domestic violence offense involved:  *RCW 26.50.010(3) defines domestic violence as: “‘Domestic violence’ means: (a) Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members; (b) sexual assault of one family or household member by another; or (c) stalking as defined in RCW 9A.46.110 of one family or household member by another family or household member.” 

Contact The Law Office of Nicholas Wood, P.S. today to set up an appointment to discuss this situation and how you can protect yourself.