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How Mel B Could Have Had Sole Custody Over Alleged Abuser in Her Divorce

Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage

There are consequences to being a domestic violence abuser when it comes to child custody. See how Melanie Brown (Mel B) of the Spice Girls, failed to use her rights under the Family Code to preserve custody over her children.

Mel B and Stephen Belafonte, who has worked as a producer, married June 6, 2007. In September 2011, they welcomed a daughter, Madison. They also raised Mel’s daughters from previous relationships, Angel and Phoenix. In 2017, Mel B filed for divorce.

On April 3, 2017, a court awarded Mel B a restraining order against Belafonte after she alleged that he had been mentally and physically abusive to her throughout their marriage. She said Belafonte had punched her and slammed her into the floor many times and also repeatedly verbally abused her. She also alleged that Stephen forced her to have sex with him and other women and threatened to make secretly recorded sex videos public if she objected.

Due to the pressure from their bitter divorce proceedings, Mel B dropped the domestic violence order and settled her case with Belafonte. They ended up splitting custody of Madison. The divorce ended but custody disputes have continued, a matter not taken up here.

It could have ended differently.

There is a rebuttable presumption that an order for sole or joint physical or legal custody to a person seeking custody who has perpetrated domestic violence within the past five years against the other party, the child or the child's siblings, or against a current spouse, cohabitant or parent of the parent or person seeking custody, or against a person with whom the parent or person seeking custody has a dating or engagement relationship - would be detrimental to the child's best interest. This presumption may be rebutted only by a preponderance of the evidence. (Cal. Fam. Code, § 3044(a); Christina L. v. Chauncey B. (2014) 229 Cal.App,4th 731, 736.) A finding of domestic violence triggers the presumption, not the issuance of a restraining order. Family Code § 3044's presumption remains in effect even if the restraining order has expired. (Celia S. v. Hugo H. (2016) 3 Cal.App.5th 655, 665-666.)

In other words, Mel B could have used the temporary restraining order to limit her husband’s custody rights. She compromised that position to advance her case. Due to other twists and turns in her custody battle, it is Mel B who now has minority timeshare with her kids.

If you want to discuss how child custody and visitation figures in your domestic violence case, directly schedule a free initial consultation with the Law Offices of Jane Migachyov NOW.


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