Behavioral Sciences and the Law Volume: 8 Issue: 2 Dated: (Spring 1990) Pages: 151-159
The frequency of contested divorces and child custody cases has increased in recent years, many involving domestic violence.
The reasons why battered women stay in their abusive relationships beyond the first violent episode are complex and many and not widely understood. Often the most dangerous time for victims is when they are attempting to physically and/or legally separate from their abusive spouses. Such attempts sometimes prompt even previously non-abusive men into abusive acts such as spying, vandalism, obscene phone calls, beating, and child-napping. Child custody disputes have been on the rise in recent years and are sometimes considered a continuation of domestic abuse. Children caught up in the dispute are victimized as well and are much more likely than other children to grow up to be abusers. The overburdened court system has placed increasing emphasis on mediation to resolve the disputes. In 1981, California became the first State to mandate mediation of all custody and visitation disputes. Delaware, Maine, and local jurisdictions of other States also require mediation. Several States require judges to consider spouse abuse in determining child custody; California considers it irrelevant to parenting ability. Successful mediation will serve the best interests of the child, help couples arrive at mutually satisfactory arrangements, and empower the battered woman. 36 references. (Author abstract modified)