Amicus Brief published in Domestic Violence Supreme court case by Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP)

Some relevant excerpts are included below:

“The adversarial setting of a custody dispute tends to magnify the inherent inclination to disregard, discount, or reject allegations of abhorrent acts when those allegations are made by one litigating parent against the other litigating parent. See Getting to the Truth at 123-24; Lundy Bancroft et al., The Batterer as Parent: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence on Family Dynamics 154 (2d ed. 2012) (“Family courts and child protective services often appear skeptical of domestic violence or child abuse allegations brought by women in custody and visitation litigation, believing that such reports are exaggerated for strategic purposes.”). “[B]ecause the [custody] court is hearing only from two warring parents, . . . courts become deaf to mothers’ claims that they are advocating for the best interest of their children.” Joan S. Meier, Domestic Violence, Child Custody, and Child Protection: Understanding Judicial Resistance and Imagining the Solution, 11 Am. U. J. Gender Soc. Pol’y & L. 657, 717 (2003) (Understanding Judicial Resistance) (“Many judges’ and mental health professionals’ resistance to taking seriously a battered mother’s claims of risk to children is driven, at least in part, by the fact that she is a litigant with a presumed self-interested bias against the opposing party, which casts doubt on all of her claims about the children’s welfare.”). The tendency of courts to discount abuse claims made by one parent against the other may be revealed, for example, when a judge indicates from the 0 bench that he intends to discredit reports of child maltreatment merely because it was reported “by the mother.” See id. at 665 (describing case in which judge disparaged attorney’s allegations of the child’s destructive behaviors after visits with the child’s father).

. A recent study considered 27 custody cases involving parental allegations of child abuse initially determined to be false, resulting in an order granting 2 custody to the alleged abuser. The allegations were later found to be valid and, in a subsequent proceeding, the child was protected from unsafe contact with the abusive parent. In analyzing the factors that caused the incorrect initial determinations, the authors found one significant problem to be that the “[f]amily courts were highly suspicious of mother’s motives for being concerned with abuse.”


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