When Women Are Victims Of Abuse And Victims Of The Courts

Within Washington County, there are women who suffer. These women are the victims of domestic violence and many of them are mothers. The Star Tribune reports that in 2012, there were over 63,000 women who came forward and asked for help against their abusers.

However, while there are multiple resources now available to help these women, they may find themselves revictimized in the court system when they and their abusers are in the middle of a child custody dispute. Last May, a conference was held in Washington D.C. for the tenth consecutive year. According to The Washington Post, domestic violence advocates, victims and other experts came together to discuss the challenges battered mothers face in the court system.

Battered mothers and the courts

Advocates for Human Rights points out that battered mothers face an uphill battle in the courts. This is attributed to a shift in court attitudes regarding custody. Now parents are encouraged to share custody but this belief puts a battered mother in a difficult position. If the mother is unwilling to cooperate out of fear of the father, she faces accusations of trying to alienate the children from their father and could actually lose custody of them.

Studies show that abusers with children are more likely to seek custody of the children than fathers who are not abusive. Among other study findings are:

  • Abusive parents use the courts as a tool to maintain their control over their victims or harass them.
  • Over half of abusive parents have also abused their children either mentally, emotionally, physically or sexually.
  • Abusive fathers often win custody of their children.
  • Courts have issued joint custody rulings in cases clearly involving domestic violence, even though laws discourage this type of action.
  • Abusive fathers often show little interest in their children.

In addition, abusive partners usually control the money and will use such resources to lengthen the court process, exhausting battered mothers emotionally and financially.

Child custody evaluator study

In 2011 the U.S. Department of Justice was given a report based on the study of child custody evaluators and their beliefs about domestic violence. The report was compiled from surveys conducted among judges, private attorneys, battered mothers, case workers and public aid attorneys. Participants were voluntary and answered a number of questions that centered on their knowledge of domestic violence, their beliefs regarding mothers and fathers' accusations of violence and the actions they would take.

The results showed that personal experience with domestic violence made child custody evaluators more likely to believe battered mothers' claims and make recommendations that the fathers' visits be limited. Evaluators who did not have personal experience were less likely to believe the accusations and therefore, would make recommendations for joint custody and unsupervised visitation.

Battered mothers should find an attorney that understands the challenges they may face in the legal system in order to make sure that their rights are protected.