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Supervised and Unsupervised Parental Access in Domestic Violence Cases: Court Orders and Consequences

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2006
Chris S. O'Sullivan Ph.D.; Lori A. King M.A.; Kyla Levin-Russell B.A.; Emily Horowitz Ph.D.
Publication Type
Research (Applied/Empirical)
Grant Number(s)
Based on the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ 1994 Model Code recommending child visitation for a perpetrator of domestic violence, this study examined conformity of visitation decisions to the Model Code, compared different visitation conditions in regard to re-abuse, and examined children’s psychological well-being given their exposure to abuse.
The results of a study based on the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ 1994 Model Code recommending child visitation for a perpetrator of domestic violence indicate that if the father has recently been physically abusive or if he has abused alcohol or drugs, he is significantly more likely to receive an order for family supervised than for unsupervised visits. Visitation conditions were not significantly associated with abuse during a followup period. In addition, more children showed externalizing and internalizing behavior problems if the mother had been severely injured by the father. Serious threats were associated with a higher rate of internalizing behavior problems. Based on these results recommendations are presented and include: (1) supervised visitation should be ordered when the mother has sustained a serious injury and when the children have been exposed to severe threats; (2) more funding is necessary for visitation centers; (3) guidelines should be developed for family members who supervise visits; and (4) unsupervised visits and family supervised visits need to be monitored for compliance with conditions on visits. This study supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice recruited 242 women from the family courts and supervised visitation centers in the 5 counties in New York City. Baseline interviews were conducted with 168 women reinterviewed an average of 6 months later. The first interview obtained information on the history of abuse in the relationship (i.e., physical abuse, psychological abuse, controlling behavior and threats, and injuries), frequency of abuse in the past 3 months, child exposure to the abuse, visitation arrangements and court orders, and child adjustment as measured by the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). The followup interview asked about abuse since the previous interview and current visitation status. Tables, references, and appendixes A-B
Date Created: April 7, 2006