How Domestic Violence Can Impact Divorce

How Domestic Violence Can Impact Divorce

Domestic Violence Is Grounds for Divorce

Georgia is a fault-based divorce state, which means that couples must include the grounds for their divorce in their filing. There are 13 grounds for divorce, including cruel treatment, which involves the “willful infliction” of physical or mental pain that causes a person to fear for their life or health.

In Georgia, domestic violence (also known as family violence) is defined as any assault, stalking, battering, criminal damage to property, criminal trespass, or felony that occurs between spouses, es-spouses, co-parents, parents and children, step-parents and stepchildren, or roommates (past and present). If a spouse commits an act of domestic violence against the other party, the injured spouse may file for divorce on the grounds of cruel treatment and/or ask the court for protective orders.

Even in cases where no reported instance of domestic violence has occurred, either spouse may make allegations concerning domestic violence. The court takes allegations and/or a history of domestic violence seriously, and if it is proven either party is a physical or mental threat to the other party, alimony and child custody determinations can be affected.

Domestic Violence & Alimony Determinations

Georgia Code § 19-6-5 outlines the factors that the court uses to determine whether alimony will be awarded and the amount of alimony. While domestic violence against one party against the other is not among the eight factors, the final factor is any relevant information that the court believes is “equitable and proper.” Thus, the court may consider how any family violence has affected the abused party’s ability to work or their need for financial support.

Property Division & Domestic Violence

If family violence allegations are proven to be true, the court may give a more favorable property division determination to the aggrieved party. For instance, they may award the non-abusive spouse with the marital home or award the with a greater percentage of the marital property.

Domestic Violence & Child Custody

If a divorcing couple has children, the best interest of the child will take precedence with the court. To determine the child’s best interest, the court considers multiple factors, such as:

  • The child’s emotional connection with each parent as well as their siblings, step-siblings, parent’s significant other, and the residence
  • The home environment of each parent
  • Each parent’s parenting abilities
  • The mental and physical health of both parents
  • Each parent’s history concerning substance abuse, addiction, and/or criminal history
  • Any evidence or allegation concerning family violence (or domestic violence) or the physical, mental, or sexual abuse of the child
  • Any other relevant factors

In the initial filing, parents will be asked to disclose past or current incidences of domestic violence, protective orders, or the termination of parental rights. If either parent is accused of having committed an act of family violence or has a record related to such an offense, the court will consider the record or claim. It is important to note that corporal punishment (and other forms of reasonable discipline) given to a child by a parent is not considered domestic violence.

Courts will investigate any allegations even if neither party has reported, been arrested for, or requested police involvement for domestic violence. If a party is found to have been abusive, the court will only allow them to have visitation or custody if there are protections in place for the child and co-parent. Thus, to ensure their safety, the court may:

  • Order supervised visitation as well as the payment of supervision fees
  • Order that the abusive parent be kept from knowing the address of the child and victim of family violence
  • Order the abusive parent to complete a family violence intervention training
  • Prohibit overnight visitation
  • Require custody exchanges take place in a police or fire station (or another protected setting)
  • Require the abusive parent to post a bond that gets returned each time the child is returned safely
  • Terminate the abusive parent’s parental rights

Get Legal Help

Backed by over 40 years of collective experience, Balbo & Gregg, Attorneys at Law, PC can help clients navigate the divorce process and achieve the best possible case results. Whether you are worried about your own history or the other party’s history concerning domestic violence, our attorneys can work tirelessly to protect your interests and parental rights. We can help you understand your legal rights and the potential case outcomes. Known for our integrity and dedication to our clients, our firm offers each client personalized legal counsel and case-specific strategies.

Let us help you! To learn more about how our attorneys can help you, schedule a free initial consultation today. Call (866) 580-3089.