Assembly OKs Tougher Rules in Custody Cases

<i> From Associated Press</i>

The state Assembly on Thursday approved a bill that would make it harder for people convicted of domestic violence to get custody of their children.

The bill, passed 42-22 and sent to the Senate, would require convicted batterers seeking custody to prove that it would be in the children’s best interest to be placed with that parent.

Passage of the bill comes as a group of Orange County residents seeks to oust a judge who gave O.J. Simpson custody of his children despite his plea of no contest to spousal abuse.


The bill’s author, Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), said the bill had been in the works long before the Simpson case arose.

“This amendment was the primary recommendation of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges concerning the issue of domestic violence,” Kuehl said.

The bill creates a “rebuttable presumption” against a parent convicted of domestic violence--meaning that such a parent, while not prohibited from gaining custody, would be required to prove that he or she is a suitable guardian.

Current law allows a judge to consider a domestic violence conviction, along with a range of other factors, but places less emphasis on the matter than Kuehl’s bill would require.

Assemblyman Rod Pacheco (R-Riverside) argued that the bill went too far.

“There are other things, like sexual abuse, that are taken into consideration but are not given this same status,” he said. “This bill creates one item and makes it preeminent over all--preeminent over child sexual abuse, preeminent over child abuse, preeminent over child neglect.”

Despite Kuehl’s statements to the contrary, Assemblyman Dick Floyd (D-Wilmington), criticized the bill as driven by Simpson headlines.


“As far as I’m concerned, this ain’t nothin’ but an O.J. bill, and I find it reprehensible,” Floyd said.