Peter Jaffe and colleagues have described 6 misconceptions in child custody disputes. Here we discuss these misconceptions.
Misconception # 1: Domestic violence is rarely a problem for divorcing couples involved in a child custody dispute
In reality, the majority of parents in "high-conflict divorces" involving child custody dispute report a history of domestic violence. Current research estimates, that the prevalence of domestic violence during a "high-conflict divorce" occurs in approximately 75% of all cases. Additionally, between 70-75% of these cases are referred to counselling because of continual disputes regarding the care of children and the harmful impacts of physical aggression.
For a parent considering to leave an abusive spouse, your safety is of the utmost importance. The unfortunate truth of domestic violence, is that it frequently occurs chronically -- with the abuser trying to reassert their power on a victim. When a victimized spouse leaves this abuse with children, the risk for additional violence increases. If you are thinking of leaving an abusive partner, please don't do it alone and consider using Mental Health Resources.
Misconception # 2: Domestic violence ends with separation of the parents
In fact, abused persons are continuously at risk from additional abuse from their former spouse following a separation. Among current victims of domestic violence, it is common for abusive persons to:
Misconception # 3: As long as children are not abused directly, they are not harmed by exposure to domestic violence
Children who are exposed to domestic violence in childhood experience immediate psychological responses comparable to children who are direct victims of physical or sexual abuse (Jaffe, Wolfe, & Wilson, 1990). Additionally, such children are likely to experience neuropsychological impacts throughout their development and experience long lasting effects of trauma during adulthood.
Misconception # 4: Since domestic violence is behaviour between adults, it is not relevant for the determination of child custody
As described above, domestic violence does have significant impacts on child development and domestic violence is relevant for the determination of custody.
Misconception # 5: Family courts, lawyers, and court-related services such as mediation and custody evaluation, can assess the needs of abused individuals as well as the impact of the abusive partner
In actuality, domestic violence can be missed for the following reasons:
In summary, domestic violence can be overlooked and ignored by family courts, lawyers and court-related services. Additionally, trauma-informed training is necessary to understand the harmful implications of domestic violence.
Misconception # 6: Legal and mental health services for abused individuals and their children separating from abusive partners are readily accessible and easily coordinated
In contrast to this misconception, finding access to legal and mental health counseling for a domestic violence case is very challenging. For example, most victims experience