Family Courts and Child Custody

Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence

Decades of work by the domestic violence (DV) field have resulted in improvements in the family court system’s capacity to handle cases involving DV. However, survivors still too often lose custody to abusive partners, and in other cases, survivors may have primary custody but an abusive partner is awarded substantial visitation or parenting time. In these cases, children are placed in the full- or part-time care of someone who has used violence in their presence, despite the documented long-term traumatic effects on children of witnessing violence in the home.

Abusive (ex-)partners often intentionally undermine the survivor’s parenting efforts and parenting authority, not only during the relationship but also after separation.

Recommended Reading

For lawyers who are representing survivors in custody cases, the following tools address mental health as a substantive issue in a case.

Denice Wolf Markham, JD, Mental Illness and Domestic Violence: Implications for Family Law Litigation, Journal of Poverty Law and Policy (2003).