Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody – Legal Strategies and Policy Issues

Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody  – Legal Strategies and Policy Issues

Editors: Mo Therese Hannah, Ph.D. and Barry Goldstein, J.D

In a trend that started in the 1980s, and increasingly since then, family court judges across the U.S. have ordered thousands and thousands of children into unsupervised visitation with abusive biological fathers.  In many cases, mothers have been denied any form of custody, with some losing all contact with their children. In the last few years, attorneys and social service advocates have met to address this issue at the annual Battered Mother’s Custody Conferences.  This book brings together the expertise and perspective of more than thirty contributors to BMCC in a comprehensive resource that arms advocates with the best thinking and most effective legal strategies in the battle to protect mothers and families from a system that often fails to address abuse and sometimes actually worsens the problem.
Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody presents insights and hands-on practice guidance from the leading experts on child custody cases that involve intimate partner violence and child abuse. Chapter authors address the prevalence of these problems, the complex reasons why protective mothers lose custody of their children, the things court agents and other professionals often do that contribute to bad outcomes, and the corrective measures that must be put into place to ensure legal protections for abused women and their children.
Understand the harm caused by all types of abusive behavior, whether physical, verbal, financial, legal, or other forms.
Guide the representation of protective mothers through research, case law, and consultation to improve case outcomes.
Establish the paramount importance of children’s safety beyond all other priorities that may emerge in a child custody case.
Provide judges with new insight into the dynamics of violence, recognize when experts and other types of witnesses are providing testimony based on myths, stereotypes, and discredited theories, and provide an empirically based, real-world rationale for orders emphasizing the safety of protective mothers and the accountability of batterers.

“All attorneys who represent battered women or their children in custody litigation should obtain Domestic Violence, Abuse & Child Custody (Hannah & Goldstein, 2010), as this volume has rapidly become the standard for legal guidance on this topic.”
—Lundy Bancroft, Jay G. Silverman & Daniel Ritchie, The Batterer as Parent: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence on Family Dynamics (2nd ed., 2012), page 272
“This comprehensive book is a gift to the cause of justice not only for victimized women and children but for anyone who cares about the integrity of law itself. The American legal system has for too long facilitated the very violence it purports to forbid, often allowing abusive men to use the courts to punish women and children who speak out against child sexual abuse and domestic violence. Mo Hannah and Barry Goldstein have created a desperately needed manual that will empower generations of victims to fight back. My favorite section is the one that reminds us of the obvious: ‘Therapy is Not the Answer’ to violence. The stories of injustice in this book will shock you, and make you cry–but keep reading. Abusers are hoping you won’t pay attention because it will be too painful.  Prove them wrong by reading this book again and again and again–and share it with everyone who needs to know the truth.”
—Wendy Murphy, JD, New England Law-Boston; author of And Justice For Some
“We are excited about Domestic Violence, Abuse and Child Custody, a new book that we believe can be used to change the broken custody court system.  The book contains chapters by over 25 of the leading experts in the US and Canada including judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, journalists and domestic violence advocates.  The co-editors, Mo Therese Hannah and Barry Goldstein and many of the contributors like Joan Zorza and Lois Schwaeber are long-time friends and supporters of our movement.  Although the contributors come from very different disciplines and backgrounds, there is remarkable agreement that thousands of children are being forced to live with abusers because of common mistakes and discredited practices used by the family court system.  The book is meticulously researched and cited so the findings have the highest credibility.”
—Rita Smith, Executive Director, NCADV (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
“This book serves as a beacon of light to all those who have become jaundiced by the malfunctioning family court, social services, law guardian and mental health system. Whether the reader is a protective parent, child advocate, attorney, judge, social worker or mental health expert, this exquisitely organized and illuminating volume will help the reader to better understand the socio-historical, socio-legal, and socio-cultural forces shaping today’s domestic relations courts. The editors have assembled eminent scholars, practitioners, and child advocates in one volume that flows like a brilliantly conducted orchestral piece. This fine collection clarifies the core issues at hand and provides a full panoply of solutions; it adds a significant contribution to an expanding body of literature on domestic violence, abuse and child custody.”
—Amy Neustein, Ph.D., Co-Author of From Madness to Mutiny: Why Mothers Are Running From the Family Courts—And What Can Be Done About It, recipient of the NARCCW 2010 Pro Humanitate Literary Award, shared with Attorney Michael Lesher, a contributor to this volume.
“For years custody courts have confidently denied complaints by mothers of unfair treatment in domestic violence cases. If the court system had commissioned research to determine how the present practices are working, the result would be the information contained in Domestic Violence, Abuse and Child Custody. The research findings demonstrate court practices are outdated and their confidence misplaced. Wise judges will use the up-to-date research now available to take a fresh look at practices and assumptions deeply ingrained after thirty years. No one wants to be known as the judge who hurts children and this research can prevent the kinds of tragic outcomes we see too frequently.”
—Judge Sol Gothard, JD, MSW, ACSW, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal, State of Louisiana (ret.)