February 2023 – The Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody Battles

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Going through a divorce is hard enough when it ends amicably and the couple is able to seek alternative dispute resolutions, but it is especially complicated when it comes from a violent background. Divorces are stressful, involve a lot of legal matters, and almost always a family lawyer is necessary to ensure that all parties’ rights are protected — which includes the children.

When the dispute for child custody comes with a history of domestic violence, things become much more complicated. Not only this needs to be reported and taken into consideration, but it will add more stress for the victim of abuse and the children involved.

Many people wonder how much and how it impacts a child custody dispute, and we will look into the consequences that domestic violence causes in such cases.

Dealing With the Divorce and Disputes

In cases of family disputes, it is always recommended that the couple try to resolve the issues as amicably as possible, and hopefully through an alternative family law resolution, which is much faster and cheaper than going to court. An experienced family lawyer calgary can support the family in achieving the best possible outcome of a bad situation in a much less traumatic way, both for the couple as well as for the children. 

But not always this is possible, there are different situations that cause this, but normally it is due to unmanageable differences – and more often than it should it is because the parties cannot reach the other for safety reasons. Because of that, many family law cases end up going to Court.

Statistics Canada found in 2021 that for every 100,000 residents there are on average 336 victims of police-reported domestic violence – the fifth consecutive year of increase. Women and girls represent the majority of cases with 69% of all cases being against them. Even when domestic violence is not targeted at the children, they suffer when they see one of their parents being abused. Children are extremely fragile in relation to their environments and will pick up on stressful situations in their daily lives that may cause long-lasting trauma.

When taking a case to Court it may take a long time until a resolution happens, and due to the whole legal process, having an experienced family lawyer with you will save you time, money, and most importantly stress.

Domestic Violence and Family Law

Most Canadian provinces and territories have laws that include references to domestic violence and how it impacts other legal processes.

In 2003, the Family Law Act started being enforced in Alberta. The Family Law Act contains the “core principles of provincial family law”. It determines who are the people responsible for a child, their obligations and rights, child support, spousal support, and more. This Act states clearly that the Court must take into consideration any history of domestic violence and how it will impact the child’s safety, as well as the safety of any other family member affected by it.

In 2018 Canada passes Bill C-78, an Act to amend the Divorce Act. This new Act reassesses what is in a child’s best interests, and gives a north to judges so they can pave a decision in favour of the child. It also defines terminology to leave no room for doubt and introduces measures to assist courts in addressing family violence. Family violence gets defined as any conduct that is violent, threatening, or constitutes a pattern of controlling and coercive behaviour – it includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, harassment, psychological abuse, financial abuse, and more.

The history of domestic violence will weigh the judge’s decision on each case when they consider the child’s best interests – in every case the child’s best interests and rights are always a top priority. The Court will take into consideration the nature, seriousness, and frequency of the violence, to whom it is directed, if it compromises the child’s safety, the physical, emotional, and psychological harm caused, and more.


Being involved in a situation where you fear for your child’s well-being on top of having to fear for yours is extremely traumatic and stressful. That is one of the many reasons why you should have a compassionate and experienced family lawyer to deal with situations for you. They will empower you by giving you information on how the law works and how they can aid you and your family in such a situation as domestic abuse. Interpreting this information and coming up with the best possible scenario in your case is extremely valuable.

Domestic violence is an extremely serious issue and a grave offence, a situation no one should go through, and a judge will take it into consideration always to bring the best resolution that will defend the children affected best interests.

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