Domestic Violence Awareness Month: The Impact Of Domestic Violence On Decision-Making Determinations

Cindy Best

Although courts should consider evidence of domestic violence at every point in decision-making and visitation negotiations, there is no guarantee that judges will do so.

Women often report that violence plays a significant role in divorce proceedings, specifically regarding the issues of decision-making, visitation and child support.

Partner violence is a factor in anywhere from a third or a half of the cases where decision-making is disputed.

In disputed family court cases, somewhere between 15 percent and 25 percent show substantiating evidence of physical abuse, such as prior arrest, criminal court finding or court order.

Many abusers appear to use the legal system to maintain contact and harass their ex-partners, at times using extensive and lengthy litigation.

Many women compromise on their demands for resources during divorce negotiations for fear of losing decision-making of their children.

In cases of domestic violence, fathers who contest decision-making win sole or joint decision-making up to 70 percent of the time.

Joint decision-making precludes separation between a victim and her abuser, because the parents must transfer children and have joint decision-making. This ongoing communication provides excessive, yet legally required, opportunities for the batterer to continue his abuse.

Courts seem to ignore abuse and privilege the father-child relationship despite the danger, concluding that father estrangement is more traumatic to children than paternal abuse and giving decision-making of the children to the abuser.

In spite of evidence of violence against women and/or their children, the courts consistently ordered sole or joint decision-making to perpetrators in 74 percent of the cases in Maricopa County and 56 percent of the cases in the other counties combined.

 

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