New child custody law takes effect next year in California

On Behalf of | Oct 22, 2021 | Child Custody |

California considers substance abuse history and habitual drug use in child custody matters. State Senate Bill 654 (SB 654), which will take effect next year, requires the courts to review evidence of domestic abuse in visitation determinations. The law also changes the testimony of minors in visitation cases to occur in closed court.

Learn more about the provisions of this new California child custody law.

Closed court testimony

The new law will require closed chamber testimony for children, in custody cases, though courts order open court testimony for a good cause. Children do not testify about abuse in front of the abuser.  Critics of closed court testimony argue a lack of transparency. The bill requires party attorneys and the judge to hear testimony.

Critics believe the law could allow parents to manipulate the court with abuse claims. However, the law requires independent, corroborating evidence to support the alleged abuse. The proposed bill provides security to domestic abuse victims.

Alternate visitation

The current law considers children’s wishes related to custody and visitation depending on age and maturity level. It also reviews a parent’s history of abuse or habitual substance use for custody decisions, but not visitation. California courts have ordered unsupervised visitation with parents with formal abuse accusations in 6,000 cases.

The new law denies unsupervised visitation with parents suspected of domestic abuse. SB 654 allows some unsupervised visitation. The proposed bill requires judicial review to determine supervision status. Professionals will now supervise visits for parents who have a documented history of untreated substance use disorder or domestic violence.