In an article that we previously wrote about the intersection of child custody and domestic violence, we highlighted some of the problems that a woman may face when she shares custody of her children with an abusive ex. What we will talk about today, however, is how shared custody with an abusive ex may be just as damaging to the children as it is to the mother.
In California, judges award child custody in the best interests of the children. This is not a meaningless phrase, but a standard under which all family law professionals must operate. From court evaluators to private attorneys to the judges themselves, child custody decisions are meant to put children's needs first. Even though some parents wish they never had to see their former spouses again, if it is in their children's best interests to split their custody, they must do so.
When domestic violence is involved, however, it is more than just uncomfortable or emotional for women to interact with their abusive former spouses, it can also be detrimental to the children. If a husband had previously physically, verbally or emotionally abused his ex-wife, what is to say that he might not do the same to the children? Moreover, by forcing the parents to interact, there is always the risk that the ex-husband will continue to abuse his wife, potentially causing emotional trauma for the children.
Domestic abuse is a critical issue in California and one that, tragically, is not taken as seriously as it should be. Many individuals in the family law profession are reticent to believe women who say they are victims of domestic violence, yet if they don't, they may be creating a dangerous child custody arrangement for both mothers and children.