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April 29, 2004

Violence Against Women and Child Custody

A colleague sent me this information. I thought it was important enough to post. I already have most of it, but it's nice to have all of it in one convenient location.

From the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) page that addresses frequency of custody and visitation disputes that include a history of domestic violence:

"According to a 1996 report by the American Psychological Association (APA), custody and visitation disputes are more frequent when there is a history of domestic violence. Further, fathers who batter mothers are twice as likely to seek sole custody of their children and they may misuse the legal system as a forum for continuing abuse through harassing and retaliatory legal actions."

The Leadership Council has a page with stats regarding custody issues and Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and also provides information on Gender Bias Reports from six states.

Here are some pertinent stats regarding custody:

Fathers are often awarded sole custody even when their sexual and physical abuse of the children is alleged and substantiated. "Threats to Harm or Take Away Children: One of the most common reasons given for resuming an abusive relationship is the fear that the abuser will act on the threats of taking the children from the victim. Studies show that batterers have been able to convince authorities that the victim is unfit or undeserving of sole custody in approximately 70% of challenged cases." [American Judges' Foundation. Domestic Violence and the Court House: Understanding the Problem. Knowing the Victim. Williamsburg, VA: (see, Forms of Emotional Battering Section, Threats to Harm or Take Away Children Subsection)

Phyllis Chesler interviewed 60 mothers involved in a custody dispute and found that fathers who contest custody are more likely than their wives to win (p. 65). In 82% of the disputed custody cases fathers achieved sole custody despite the fact that only 13% had been involved in child care activities prior to divorce (p. 79 tbl. 5). Moreover, 59% of fathers who won custody litigation had abused their wives, and 50% of fathers who obtained custody through private negotiations had abused their wives (p. 80 tbl. 6) [ Chesler, P. (1991, 1986). Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers]

The Committee for Justice for Women studied custody awards in Orange County, North Carolina over a five year period between 1983 and 1987. They reported that "...in all contested custody cases, 84 percent of the fathers in the study were granted sole or mandated joint custody. In all cases where sole custody was awarded, fathers were awarded custody in 79 percent of the cases. In 26 percent of the cases fathers were either proven or alleged to have physically and sexually abused their children." [The Committee for Justice for Women and the Orange County, North Carolina, Women's Coalition. (1991). Contested Custody Cases In Orange County, North Carolina, Trial Courts, 1983-1987: Gender Bias, The Family And The Law.]

The stat that refers to DV being a factor in 50% of all divorce cases may have its origins in a report out of Canada, The Domestic Violence, Employment and Divorce . In the first sentence of the introduction, the authors cite a stat from the Canadian Violence Against Women Survey:

"Domestic abuse is a social issue of concern to individuals and policy makers alike. The magnitude of the problem may be surprising: estimates from the Canadian Violence Against Women Survey (VAWS) indicate that 29% of ever-married Canadian women (Statistics Canada, 1993a, p.4) and 50% of divorced women have been victims of abuse."

the report also states that . . .

". . . the majority of violent marriages end in divorce, and Table 2 supports this claim, as divorce rates for women abused in first marriages are dramatically different than those for non-abused women: while the divorce rate for non-abused women is 15%, women who experienced high severity abuse in a first marriage have a divorce rate of 75%."

Statistics that exist regarding the overlap of domestic violence and child maltreatment vary widely -- and there's also the debate about whether or not exposure to batterer behavior is in itself child maltreatment.

". . . a number of reviews currently exist on the co-occurrence of documented child maltreatment in families where adult domestic violence is also occurring. Over 30 studies of the link between these two forms of
violence show a 40% median co-occurrence of child maltreatment and adult domestic violence in families studied (Appel & Holden, 1998) and a range of co-occurrence from as low as 6.5% and others as high 97%, depending on the samples studied (Edleson, 1999b). " ["Should Childhood Exposure to Adult Domestic Violence be Defined as Child Maltreatment Under the Law?," Jeffrey L. Edleson, Ph.D., The Minnesota Center Against Violence & Abuse (MINCAVA), School of Social Work, University of Minnesota. Published as a chapter in Jaffe, P.G., Baker, L.L. & Cunningham, A. (2004). (Eds.). Protecting Children From Domestic Violence: Strategies for Community Intervention. New York, NY: Guilford Press.]

Also see Problems Association With Children Witnessing of Domestic Violence," Jeffrey L. Edelson, Ph.D., University of Minnesota, School of Social Work, Publication Date: April 1997, Revision Date: April 1999.]

Posted on April 29, 2004 at 07:13 AM | Permalink


Interesting. I worked on two online courses in the spring that focused on violence against women (for professionals) and violence against women (for consumers). The focus was more substance abuse oriented, but I believe they did have some custody info in them.


Posted by: Fitz at Jul 19, 2004 7:43:25 AM

ok so I am a stay at home mom of ten years with 3 children, 5, 7, and
9 at the time when my abusive neglectful husband took custody of my
children and had me thrown out of the house what do I do now? There
seems no answers I have spent $15000. and no lawyer had done anything
. Do you have any answers? Debbie Lucas Memphis Tenn

Posted by: debbie lucas at Aug 20, 2004 12:28:02 AM


What you are experiencing is a nationwide problem that we are addresing at our second national conference Jan. 7-9, 2005. Please see details at http://www.batteredmotherscustodyconference.org

Liliane Miller
Conference Vice Chair

Posted by: Liliane Miller at Dec 26, 2004 1:37:17 AM