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Child Witness of Domestic Violence: How Should Judges Apply the Best Interests of the Child Standard in Custody and Visitation Cases Involving Domestic Violence?

NCJ Number
UCLA Law Review Volume: 47 Issue: 3 Dated: February 2000 Pages: 813-857
Amy B. Levin
Date Published
February 2000
45 pages
This paper proposes two options that would help safeguard children's interests in child custody and visitation cases that involve domestic violence.
Part I explores how judges have historically interpreted the best-interests-of-the-child standard in custody and visitation decisions and discusses current guidelines judges use to lend consistency to their decisions. Part II examines the best-interests standard in the context of domestic violence. It considers legislative approaches to interpreting the best-interests standard when there is evidence of domestic violence in a family and suggests that judges are often undereducated about domestic violence. Part III presents the perspective of professionals concerned about the welfare of battered women and children; and Part IV presents the perspective of fathers' rights supporters regarding child custody and visitation. Part V critiques the approaches presented in Parts III and IV and suggests that both approaches fail to consider children's best interest in custody and visitation decisions. Part VI proposes mandated education on domestic violence for judges, so that they can better interpret the best-interests standard in custody and visitation cases that involve domestic violence. Part VII offers two new "rules of thumb" -- mandated treatment and supervised visitation -- that provide judges with creative options for protecting the rights of battered women and children in child custody and visitation decisions, while also preserving battering fathers' rights to custody of and visitation with their children. 133 footnotes