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Wife Abuse, Child Custody and Access in Canada (From The Effects of Intimate Partner Violence on Children, P 253-275, 2003, Robert A. Geffner, Robyn S. Igelman, and Jennifer Zellner, eds. -- See NCJ-202075)

NCJ Number
Martha Shaffer; Nicholas Bala
Date Published
23 pages
This Canadian study examined judicial attention and weight given to allegations of spousal abuse in child custody and visitation decisions made over a 3 1/2-year period from January 1997 to May 2000.
The search for relevant cases yielded only 45 cases, a small number of cases given the number of custody or access cases throughout Canada in which wife abuse was likely to have been an issue. Of these 45 cases, 42 were cases in which the woman was the party that raised spousal abuse allegations. In many of these 42 cases, men also asserted that they had been abused by their female partners. The case decisions show that judges tended not to grant custody to a man who had abused his partner, if the woman's claims of abuse were accepted by the judge as valid; however, the judges granted men whom they found to be abusive to their wives access to their children on an unsupervised basis. Such a pattern of judicial decisionmaking is problematic, since many of the factors related to the risk of awarding child custody to a batterer may also endanger the mother or child under a condition of unsupervised access to the child. Given the problems associated with such cases, Canada is currently engaged in the difficult process of reforming child custody and access laws. This paper advises that such legislation should refer specifically to spousal abuse as a factor that should be taken into account in child-custody and access decisions. Legislative provisions should consider the effect of any custody or access order on the safety of the children and the victims of spousal abuse. 1 table and 36 references