Most people understand that a domestic violence charge can negatively affect your career, lifestyle, and freedom. If convicted, you may be required to undergo psychiatric treatment, rehabilitation, or a drug and alcohol program. You could even be confined to your home, and only allowed to leave for work, school, or other special purposes. And you are likely to be left with a criminal stain on your record that will make it difficult to secure employment, obtain housing, and successfully apply for loans.
While anyone convicted of domestic violence may face these severe and life-altering consequences, there is one particularly devastating consequence of domestic violence that only parents face—the effect of domestic violence on their children.
If you are charged with domestic violence, it can have a profound impact on the lives of your children, both practically and emotionally. Studies have found that children involved in domestic violence cases may suffer a range of lasting effects, and are more likely to be affected by violence when they are older, as either perpetrators or victims.
Below, we’ve listed some key ways children are affected by their parent’s domestic violence case.
Stable home environment deprivation. If you have been accused of domestic violence, your fellow parent can file a petition for a protective order to prevent future acts of violence. If the court finds you guilty of domestic violence, the court may issue a protective order that forbids you from contacting your partner or child. The order may grant child custody to the other spouse, and require you to move out of your family’s home. Effectively, your domestic violence charge could turn your child’s world upside-down, depriving him or her of the care of two loving parents and shattering their sense of routine and normalcy.
Physical, emotional, and social developmental harm. Witnessing domestic violence can harm the physical, emotional, and social development of young children. Whether young children see, hear, or observe the aftermath of domestic abuse, they can become fearful, anxious, and isolated. Children may begin to act out, withdraw, or exhibit signs of anxiety and short attention spans. As they grow, children may have developmental delays in cognitive, motor, and speech skills.
Increased risk of becoming victims or perpetrators in the future. Studies have found that children who are exposed to domestic violence during childhood are far more likely to be involved in domestic violence cases as teens and adults. When children witness domestic violence, they are taught that violence can be an effective method of resolving conflict and asserting dominance. They may grow up believing that violence and threats are normal in all relationships.
Increased risk for drug abuse and juvenile delinquency. Similarly, children who witnesses their parent’s domestic violence charge have a much higher risk of abusing drugs and alcohol in the future. According to some experts, witnessing domestic violence is one of the best predictors of juvenile delinquency and criminality as an adult.
Protecting Your Child throughout Your Domestic Violence Case
As a parent, you may be understandably concerned about protecting your child’s emotional well-being and future throughout your domestic violence case. It’s incredibly important that you or your spouse try to keep your child’s home life as normal as possible throughout your proceedings, working to provide them with a safe and secure environment. At this point in their development, your child needs a sense of routine and normalcy in their lives, and adults who provide them with warmth, attention, and love.
It’s a good idea to seek support services and professional help for your child during this time. Domestic violence programs and youth services can provide your child with a place where he or she can feel safe and talk about experiences with a dependable adult. It’s important for kids to have an alternative role model in this situation, who can help to teach them that domestic violence is wrong and how to avoid violence in personal relationships.
Finally, you should consult with a knowledgeable North Carolina domestic violence attorney who can help evaluate your case and determine your options. With a powerful defense attorney, you can defend your rights as a parent, working to avoid a protection order that would bar you from contacting, caring for, or making parenting decisions about your child.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.