Child Custody Evaluations and Domestic Violence: Case Comparisons


The literature indicates that witnessing domestic violence is harmful to children, that there is a high overlap between domestic violence and child abuse, and that safety is an important issue for separating women because separation from abusive partners is a particularly dangerous time for victims of domestic violence. Further, child custody is often a contentious issue in domestic violence cases. Child custody evaluations are typically used to assist courts in deciding custody when custody is disputed and when the best interests of the child are unclear. The concept of "best interests of the child" does not specify evaluation techniques or approaches, however, and while custody evaluation standards generally address the best interests of the child, they offer little guidance in high-risk situations such as parental domestic violence. In addition, there has been limited research focused on understanding the custody evaluation process or the degree to which practitioners differ in their procedures and reporting for cases with and without parental domestic violence. This study is one of the first to examine characteristics of disputed custody cases and their custody evaluation reports for differences between domestic violence and non-domestic violence cases.

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Published in Violence and Victims, v. 17, no. 6, p. 719-742.

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