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Children of domestic violence require a special approach

When one parent is subjected to acts of violence at the hand of his or her partner, a very careful approach is required in matters of divorce and child custody. Research suggests that an abusive parent is likely to turn that abuse toward his or her children when the relationship ends. Unfortunately, the Florida court system has few protections in place to address this risk, leaving children exposed to harm even after one parent has made every effort to remove them from an environment of domestic violence.

It is estimated that more than 580 children have been killed by a parent during a child custody, child support or divorce case over the past decade. According to child safety advocates, many of those deaths could have been prevented if the courts had listened to parents who warned of the risk of abuse. That need led U.S. Representatives Pat Meehan and Carolyn B. Maloney to introduce a resolution that would increase protections in cases that include allegations of domestic violence.

The resolution would ask courts to place a child's safety above all other factors in a custody case, even the child's best interests. It also suggests that courts take a very strict approach to evidence presented by professionals, ensuring that those individuals demonstrate expertise in working with victims of trauma or abuse. An additional suggestion is made that addresses how professionals are compensated, and presenting a strong preference for payment by the courts instead of by the parties of a case.

Should this resolution be accepted, parents in Florida and elsewhere could receive additional protections in cases where domestic violence plays a role. That could come as a welcome relief for parents who want to move forward with divorce or child custody, but who fear for the safety of their children if they make that move. While this is not an issue that affects all Florida families, it can truly be a matter of life and death for others.

Source: readingeagle.com, "U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan seeks greater protection for kids in custody cases", Beth Brelje, July 31, 2017

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