Domestic Violence: Child Custody and Family Law Issues

Last updated August 2012

For women who wish to escape from domestic violence, separation and divorce are often the best options. However, separating from their batterers can put women at increased risk and implicates a variety of child custody issues. Because of the ways in which batterers can use child custody and visitation against their former partners, it is critical that the laws that govern child custody determinations, laws most often invoked during divorce, further the safety of both the child and the non-abusive parent.

Particularly where OFPs are unavailable, divorce remains the only avenue of relief available to battered women in many countries. Divorce, however, can be costly and difficult to obtain. It involves complex child custody issues. Judges may require parties to participate in mediation or couples counseling, a process that can further endanger the victim. >>Learn more

Child Custody
Domestic violence can have devastating effects on children. Batterers often use children to manipulate their partners. While the relationship continues, batterers may threaten to take custody of, kidnap or harm the children if the victim reports the abuse. After a battered woman leaves a relationship, batterers may use child custody disputes, visitation and joint custody arrangements as opportunities to threaten, intimidate, coerce and harm their former partners. From Kendall Segel-Evans, Wife Abuse and Child Custody and Visitation by the Abuser (1989). There are a variety of unique ways that domestic violence affects custody and visitation arrangements. Explore the following child custody Topics:

Tort Remedies for Domestic Violence
Some women also attempt to use tort law (the law that governs non-contractual claims for damages for harm) to obtain restitution for injuries inflicted by their batterers. Like other criminal conduct, domestic violence can give rise to liability for damages under civil law. In addition, some of the tactics used by batterers to establish and maintain control over their partners that may not be criminal in and of themselves may still give rise to a claim for damages. For example, if a batterer sabotages a woman's employment, he may have sufficiently interfered with her economic interests to be liable under civil law.