When Shared Parenting and the Safety of Women and Children Collide

Shared parenting and joint custody are common outcomes in family law cases, even when there is a history of woman abuse. Such custody and access arrangements mean that an abusive partner can continue his manipulation of and violence against the woman and that the impact of exposure to abuse continues for the children.

When Shared Parenting and the Safety of Women and Children Collide, a new paper by Luke’s Place Legal Director, Pamela Cross, explores why shared parenting decisions are made and suggests new approaches and best practices for high risk violence cases before the courts.

Although not an easy task, a number of frameworks have been advanced to help custody and access assessors and family court judges distinguish between couples in unhealthy relationships, who engage in mean, disrespectful treatment of one another but where neither partner fears the other (what Kelly and Johnson call situational couple violence) and those where there is ongoing risk of physical harm coupled with intense fear by one partner of

To work towards new approaches and best practices that could integrate concerns of high risk violence cases into family court decisions, this paper reviews what contributes to the existing context: the impact of a so-called gender neutral framework in family court, the historic and ongoing role of the fathers’ rights movement, the limited understanding of the long-term dynamics of abuse, the ongoing prevalence of idealized notions of families and fathers, the false construction of an inherent conflict between mothers’ and children’s interests and the role of the family court process itself, including the lack of legal representation for many litigants. I also consider the specific impacts of these barriers on those women whose experiences of past and current abuse are severe, fear-provoking, controlling and potentially lethal. Finally, I highlight some emerging best practices for consideration of intimate partner abuse in family court.

Download it now: When Shared Parenting and the Safety of Women and Children Collide

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