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Special Issue of the Journal of Child Custody: Domestic Violence Issues in Child Custody

Drozd, Leslie. (2009). Editoral. Journal of Child Custody, 6, 163–164.

Stahly, Geraldine B. (2009). Introduction to the Special Issue on Domestic Violence Issues in Child Custody. Journal of Child Custody. 6(3), 165–168.

Provides an introduction to a special double issue of the Journal of Child Custody. This issue deals with issues regarding violence and abuse, such as the merits of gender theories of family violence versus the more recent gender neutral models; whether the phenomenon called parental alienation exists as a measurable and useful concept in the evaluation of families in custody disputes; and the relationship between victimization and estrangement.

Jaffe, Peter G., Crooks, C.V., & Bala, N. (2009). A Framework for Addressing Allegations of Domestic Violence in Child Custody Disputes. Journal of Child Custody. 6(3), 169-188. [link]

Abstract: The dominant philosophy in family court emphasizes cooperative solutions between separating parents who are encouraged to put their conflicts behind them. For the majority of separating families, this collaborative approach will best serve their children. However, cases involving domestic violence require a paradigm shift, with a greater focus on making a parenting plan that protects victims and children, and less emphasis on speedy, cooperative outcomes. This paper presents a framework for addressing domestic violence through a tiered assessment strategy and an accompanying intervention framework depicted by off-ramps from a freeway (as an analogy in this case to the substantial momentum towards collaborative settlements). These off-ramps for domestic violence and high-conflict cases do not suggest a one-size-fits-all solution within these categories; rather, they mark a departure point from which a wide range of solutions may be considered. Policy and practice implications of this paradigm shift are highlighted.

Geffner, Robert, Conradi, L., Geis, K., & Aranda, M. B. (2009). Conducting Child Custody Evaluations in the Context of Family Violence Allegations: Practical Techniques and Suggestions for Ethical Practice. Journal of Child Custody. 6(3), 189–218. [link]

Abstract: A review of the literature (i.e., Austin, 2001) and the daily practice of conducting child custody evaluations has revealed that there is an inadequacy assessing and incorporating family violence issues, including both partner and child abuse, into the context of a child custody evaluation when such allegations occur. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has published attempts to address the lack of adequate assessments in family violence cases (e.g., Dalton, Drozd, & Wong, 2006), however more needs to be done. The current article discusses the existing approaches in conducting child custody evaluations when family violence is alleged and provides suggestions and practical techniques for adequately considering these issues in an evaluation. The various assessment and interview techniques that can be utilized in these complex custody evaluations are presented. The techniques discussed should aid child custody evaluators, attorneys, and judges in dealing with these complex cases, such that proper techniques can be followed to arrive at appropriate recommendations. If an evaluator conducts a child custody evaluation in a case where there are allegations of family violence but does not have specific training or expertise in this area, ethical concerns and questions arise.

LaViolette, Alyce. (2009). Assessing Intimate Partner Violence: A Context Sensitive Aggression Scale. Journal of Child Custody. 6(3), 219-231. [link]

Abstract: In the late 1970s and early 1980s, researchers began exploring the differences in men who physically abused their female intimate partners. Since that time, there has been an emergence of research on that topic which has led to the development of batterer typologies. These men were identified around the issues of behavioral characteristics, traits, emotional responses, and experiences. Shelter advocates, for the most part, have presented a relatively one-dimensional view of abusive men based on their experiences with battered women and their children. This author proposes a continuum of aggressive acts with the intention of creating a context that could aid in assessment and intervention when intimate partner violence (IPV) is an issue. The continuum contains acts of aggression that may occur without a context or pattern of abuse.

Meier, Joan S. (2009). A Historical Perspective on Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation. Journal of Child Custody. 6(3), 232–257. [link]

Abstract: Claims of parental alienation syndrome (PAS) and parental alienation (PA) have come to dominate custody litigation, especially where abuse is alleged. Although much psychological and legal literature has critiqued PAS, and leading researchers as well as most professional institutions have renounced the syndrome concept, alienation as a parental behavior or child's condition continues to be extensively investigated and credited in research and forensic contexts. This article reviews the history of PAS, both as posited by its inventor, Richard Gardner, and as used and applied in courts, suggesting that it not only lacks empirical basis or objective merit, but that it derives from its author ' s troubling beliefs about adult and child sexual interaction. It then examines the more recent explorations of non-syndrome “alienation” as proffered by Janet Johnston and others, noting both its more balanced and grounded nature and its more modest remedial implications. However, the article concludes that PA is too closely tied to PAS to be an adequate improvement. It, too, is used crudely in courts to defeat abuse allegations, it continues to rely on speculations about mothers ' purported unconscious desires and their effects on children, and, more subtly than PAS, it minimizes abuse and its effects on mothers and children. At root, although even PA researchers have found it to be a real issue in only a small minority of contested custody cases, courts ' and evaluators' extensive focus on it in response to mothers'abuse allegations continues to privilege false or exaggerated alienation concerns over valid concerns about abuse.

Zorza, Joan. (2009). On Navigating Custody & Visitation Evaluations in Cases With Domestic Violence: A Judge's Guide. Journal of Child Custody. 6(3), 258–286. [link]

Abstract: In 2006, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges issued a revised and improved edition of Navigating Custody & Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge's Guide, which now focuses on safety for victims and their children. This new edition explains the dynamics of domestic violence, that parental alienation syndrome and parental alienation have been discredited, and why psychological tests are largely useless and unreliable in domestic violence cases. The guide, however, is still too optimistic about the success of batterer programs. The guide is sometimes misleading and gender biased as it uses gender neutral language and because what men and women do differs and usually affects them differently.

Stark, Evan. (2009). Rethinking Custody Evaluation in Cases Involving Domestic Violence. Journal of Child Custody. 6(3), 287-321. [link]

Abstract: This article was prompted by the publication of “Assessing Allegations of Domestic Violence,” by Gould, Martindale and Eidman (2007). It critically reviews the family court response to domestic violence cases, highlighting evidence that most partner abuse consists of coercive control rather than physical assault alone. After outlining what is known about the prevalence and dynamics of domestic violence in the custodial context, I summarize findings from studies of the family court response, contrast this response with public expectations and the response by other courts and institutions, and argue that the failure to provide protective remedies is systemic rather than the result of individual factors or a lack of information. Basic reforms are required in assessment, adjudication, and accountability in these cases if the family court is to retain its legitimacy as an arbiter of family matters in disputed cases.

Neustein, Amy, & Lesher, Michael. (2009). Evaluating PAS: A Critique of Elizabeth Ellis's “A Stepwise Approach to Evaluating Children for PAS”. Journal of Child Custody. 6(3), 322-325. [link]

Argues that arming PAS evaluators with Ellis’s refurbished ‘‘stepwise’’ methodology does not cure the fundamental defects of PAS theory; these methods only put a new face on the old evils.

Stahly, Geraldine Butts. (2009). A Review of Neustein, A. & Lesher, M. (2005). From Madness to Mutiny: Why Mothers are Running From Family Courts—And What Can Be Done About It. Journal of Child Custody, 6(3), 326-332.

Favorable review of From Madness to Mutiny, the first scholarly book to analyze the process and the consequences of systems failure in the family court.


More articles on abuse allegations in custody disputes