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Custody Evaluators and Domestic Violence

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From the Huffington Post:

How Custody Evaluators Think about Domestic Violence

Posted: 06/30/11 04:34 AM ET

by Robert Hughes, Jr.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Professor of Human Development

 

One of the most challenging aspects of custody decisions is the issue of domestic violence. About 20% of divorces require judges to appoint a custody evaluator to assist in the determination of custody arrangements. There are a wide range of estimates (50% – 90%) of the extent to which these divorce cases involve aggression and violence. One of the central questions that the custody evaluator must decide is whether the domestic violence is likely to continue and how to handle custody arrangements in a way that does not put family members at-risk of further violence. At present there are no universal standards for conducting custody evaluations and most custody evaluators have little training in domestic violence.

In a recent study Megan Haselschwerdt, Jennifer Hardesty and Jason Hans (Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2011) examined how custody evaluators think about domestic violence in their decisions regarding custody. They conducted in-depth interviews with a small sample (N=23) of custody evaluators that had on average about 14 years of experience conducting evaluations.

Even among behavioral scientists there has been much debate about the nature of domestic violence. Professor Michael Johnson at the University of Michigan has clarified the dispute by explaining that there are two major types of domestic violence. On the one hand, some violence is the result of stressful situations in which husbands or wives lash out in physical or verbal aggression. He called this “situational violence.” On the other hand, some domestic violence involves the use of extreme forms of control that forces a partner to do something she does not want to do. Johnson labeled this form of violence as “intimate terrorism.” He also notes that in addition to physical violence, intimate terrorists use psychological abuse, isolation and intimidation to control their partners.

Custody evaluators are likely to encounter couples who are engaged in both types of violent situations. How custody evaluators assess violence can influence their recommendations about custody outcomes. These researchers found that custody evaluators tended to hold a view that either viewed violence as situational violence or intimate terrorism.

The custody evaluators whose views tended towards viewing aggression as situational violence reported less training in domestic violence. This group generally viewed domestic violence as stress induced, normative and mutual. As a result, these evaluators minimized spouse abuse as relevant to child custody decisions. They also thought that false allegations of violence were common. In terms of custody and parenting plans, they prioritized coparenting and father-child relationships.

On the other hand, custody evaluators who characterized domestic violence as intimate terrorism took a different view of custody. They were more likely to report extensive training in domestic violence. These evaluators viewed spouse abuse as a significant factor in determining child custody. They thought that false allegations of abuse were rare. This group of evaluators distinguished between types of violence and expressed strong views that custody and parenting plans should be different for each of these types of violence. In the case of intimate terrorism, they prioritized victim safety over ongoing contact with fathers.

Although based on a small sample of custody evaluators, these findings raise important questions about the degree to which domestic violence is being thoughtfully considered in custody decisions. It is important for the legal system to develop training and policies such that custody evaluators can appropriately consider custody arrangements in domestic violence situations.

Written by mothersoflostchildren

July 4, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Enough is Enough

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Join the rally tomorrow, June 30th, downtown at the City Market!

Time
Thursday, June 30 · 11:00am – 1:00pm

Location
Indianapolis city market

222 E Market St
Indianapolis, IN

Created By

More Info
The Domestic Violence Network is sponsoring an Enough is Enough Rally to heighten awareness about domestic abuse in Central Indiana. The Enough is Enough Rally will be held on June 30, 2011 outside the Indianapolis City Market, 222 E Market St, from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

During the Rally, attendees will be able to experience exhibits from organizations dedicated to preventing and responding to domestic violence and teen dating violence. Attendees will be provided with information about healthy relationships, family violence and volunteering opportunities from exhibitors. Please join the Domestic Violence Network as we bring the community together to address the issue of domestic abuse in Central Indiana.

There will be opportunities for the public to share their voice about the importance of addressing domestic abuse. If you are interested in speaking at the Enough is Enough Rally, please contact Brandy Wright at 317-872-1086 or at bwright@dvnconnect.org.

Thank to our sponsors:
Katz, Sapper & Miller
WTHR- 13
Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Bright Ideas in Broad Ripple
Wanye Zink

Common Misconception: Officers of the Court Do Not Lie

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If most lawyers and other Whores of the Court were puppets made of wood, they’d all have six foot long noses.  The general public who don’t have many dealings with family court officials don’t realize this, hence the main reason for many family court victims losing their main support system…their family.  They think “these are court officials, they don’t lie” and they are sorely mistaken.  The following is from a Washington State publication, but it could be from any part of the country.  If you click the link on the title “GAL Power”, it will take you to the complete article at the Vancouver Voice.

GAL Power

Marcus Griffith

June 22, 2011

Divorced parents with minor children often fight over custody and visitation rights, producing courtroom decisions that are complex and often heartbreaking for at least one parent. This story takes a rare public look into that system for two reasons:

First, it involves the kind of complicated, personal and family situations that make these cases so difficult to adjudicate. Secondly, there is the additional drama of conflict combined with allegations of questionable performances among the justice system officials themselves.

Clark County Court Commissioner Carin Schienberg recently removed two children from their mother’s home, even though no petition for such action was before the court. Schienberg based her temporary decision on an allegedly flawed report prepared by a court-appointed guardian ad litem (GAL).

When the mother’s attorney criticized the GAL report and refused to apologize for her comments, the commissioner held the attorney in contempt and fined her $500.

The commissioner’s ruling is under appeal, with a hearing pending. Meanwhile, the two minor children have been moved to the custody of their father. He has issued multiple threats of legal action against the writer and any publication who would publish a story about this case.

In Washington State, court commissioners are appointed by superior court judges. They are not elected by the public, but they have many of the same responsibilities and authorities as a superior court judge.

A family law guardian ad litem is appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child, often during divorce or custody proceedings. In addition to family law matters, a GAL can be appointed to assist anyone a court deems legally incapacitated. Clark County commissioners and judges appointed GALs 396 times in 2010, according to Superior Court Administrator Jeffrey Amram.

GAL reports are confidential. However, the author obtained a copy of the GAL report from an undisclosed source after concerns were raised about contents of the report and the commissioner’s ruling.

Case didn’t seek custody

In August 2008, the mother received “primary residential placement” of the two minor children as part of a court-approved parenting plan. After more than two years of continuing conflict between the parents, the father filed an October 2010 contempt motion against the mother for violation of visitation rights.

The commissioner, in early December, held the mother in contempt for certain violations. At the same time, she approved a motion to require that transfer of the children for visitation times take place at the Vancouver police station due to conflict between the parties.

In November, the mother filed a petition to modify the parenting plan, asking for restricted visitation time with the father until he received counseling for anger management. The father, responding in December, said there was insufficient proof for a major modification of that plan.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by mothersoflostchildren

June 22, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Other States are Starting to Realize the Full Impact of Domestic Violence, Indiana Needs to Also

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This is from another friend and fellow advocate Dara Carlin from Hawaii. Sorry for the short notice, but this is happening today. It will be televised at 5:35 pm Eastern Daylight Time today, and you can watch it on the internet at the link below. Many Indiana state legislators fail to realize the full impact of domestic violence in this state, including courts giving child custody to abusers. We need to have an event like this also in Indiana.

 

 

Media AdvisoryHawaii House of Representatives

June 20, 2011 – For Immediate Release

Contact: Office of Rep. John Mizuno, Telephone: 808-586-6050, Cell: 808-741-0639

 

LAWMAKERS TO HOLD BRIEFING ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND HEAR CONCERNS FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SURVIVORS AND DISCUSS THE NEED FOR POLICY CHANGE

 

Several domestic violence survivors will share their story of how they lost custody of their child(ren) to the abuser, even after a finding of domestic violence by the abuser

 

WHAT:            The House Human Services Chairman, Rep. John Mizuno, will hold a legislative briefing to address domestic violence in Hawaii.  Rep. Mizuno will identify certain concerns involving specific failures of the current “system” in adequately addressing domestic violence.  Rep. Mizuno will also be hearing from domestic violence victims, survivor advocates, and agencies working directly with domestic violence victims, issuing protective orders and temporary restraining orders.

The briefing will:

• Identify and address concerns regarding domestic violence in Hawaii

• Explain the reason for the various bills which seek to provide greater protection for domestic violence victims

• Explain the difficulties in passing measures which seek to improve the state’s system in handling domestic violence cases

WHEN:            Tuesday, June 21, 2011 – 11:35 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time (Televised in Hawaii on Ch. 53, for Neighbor Island residents and nationwide go to the internet www.olelo.org – click NATV Ch. 53 for online live stream coverage)

WHERE:           Hawaii State Capitol, Room 329

WHY:               Rep. Mizuno was contacted by several survivors of domestic violence who will be sharing their stories with lawmakers during the briefing. According to Rep. Mizuno, “It is extremely concerning to hear that time after time the abusers who beat our victims, many times end up gaining custody of the children.  Based on our victims’ testimonies and information provided by organizations and advocates for domestic violence victims, I believe our current system has many major flaws in properly addressing domestic violence issues.  Therefore, I am looking for solid solutions to better address domestic violence statewide at the conclusion of this briefing.”

Why Won’t the White House or the U.S. Department of Justice DO SOMETHING?

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As we prepare for ANOTHER vigil in Washington D.C., again we are seemingly getting no acknowledgement about the severe plight that mothers and children are faced with.  Why don’t these folks come out and talk to the mothers who are going though this?  Why are mothers left wondering what is going to be done? 

Do they even know what is going on…really know what’s going on? 

Why don’t they do something? 

I wondered this as a child victim of family court, placed with my mother’s abuser (my father).  I wonder about this as an abused mother, who hasn’t seen her children in several years now.  Why are they handing all this help to fathers (through Fatherhood Initiative grants from HHS), and not helping mothers in the same boat?  Not to mention looking the other way on the actual criminal aspect of it.  Why not come out of that big white house on Sunday evening and tell us why.

Sex Offenders Reveal Sick Secrets: Will it Matter to Family Court Judges in Indiana?

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Whenever a child or a mother reports child sexual abuse in Indiana, if there is a child custody case involved, it will be systematically ignored.  By everyone.  Not too long ago in a case in Marion County, someone from Carl Brizzi’s Prosecutors Office said they believed the evidence of sexual abuse against a young girl by her father, but said they wouldn’t do anything about it since it was in family court.

An employee for the Marion County Prosecutor’s office, who has to remain anonymous, believes Kay’s story is legitimate, but could not take action due to the custody dispute.

WTF?

From WRTV-6:

MUNCIE, Ind. — A handful of convicted sex offenders spoke frankly to 100 strangers Wednesday night in Muncie, with no questions off limits. The workshop was a first-of-its-kind event put on by the Family Services Society to prevent future abuse, 6News’ Tanya Spencer reported.

As offenders spoke candidly about the crimes that put them in jail, two of the panelists said they assaulted young girls they had just met. One abused his own daughter and another was a church mentor.

The offenders talked about how they justified their actions in their minds.  “I moan and gripe and complain about the children that are wearing pants that’s got “sexy” (written) on the back. Why do you want to put a word on your 12-, 14- or 16-year-old daughter’s butt? I mean, is that not trying to draw attention to her?” said one sex offender, who met his teenage victim online. He blamed pornography for fueling his addiction to sex.

All of the panelists agreed that they thought only of their own gratification during their crimes, never about the effect on their victims.  Parents came to the workshop looking for answers.  “(I want) to see how these folks operate and get insight to see where I can stand to protect my own children,” said Dwight Martin, a father of a 5-year-old.”  (I wanted) to make sure that I know what to look for to keep my kids safe,” said Brandy Martin, Dwight’s wife.”

I have three little children. I have a 4-year-old, a 1-year-old and a 3-month-old. That’s my worst fear ever is that something awful like that could happen to them,” said parent Sandrina Saintignon.

Counselors with the Family Services Society said unfortunately there’s no known set of characteristics or personality traits that will help parents identify an offender. They also said that 90 percent of sexual abuse is committed by someone the victim knows and trusts.

The best advice from those who know best how to lure young victims is to talk to and listen to kids.  Let them know they’re loved unconditionally and that they can share anything with you.  Also, pay close attention to any change in their behavior.

“It (the sexual abuse) changed how she (his 13-year-old daughter) acted towards me,” said one offender, “So, if you see a change toward a family member or friend, pay attention to it. Ask questions.

“Experts said one in three girls and one in six boys will be molested in their lifetime.Experts also said 88 percent of sexual abuse cases are never reported.  The Family Services Society has done panels like Wednesday’s before for small groups, but this was the first that was open to the public.  Event organizers said they may offer more sessions in the future.

Need Legal Help? Ask a Lawyer for Free Coming Up Soon

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Here is another great opportunity to get some legal questions answered. For further questions, please visit the Indianapolis Bar Association’s website. (The information shows the year as 2010, so I have updated it with the new information below).

Do you need free legal help? You can meet with an attorney to ask basic legal questions at the Indianapolis Bar Association’s Ask A Lawyer event. Free legal advice will be provided by qualified, licensed attorneys as a service to our community. This one-day community event is sponsored by the Indianapolis Bar Association and the Indianapolis Bar Foundation, in cooperation with the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library and Indianapolis Public Schools.

Upcoming Ask a Lawyer Dates

Tuesday, April 12, 2011, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Members of the Indianapolis Bar Association will be available for FREE one-on-one consultations at the following locations:

Brightwood Library, 2435 N. Sherman Dr.

Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St.

College Library, 4180 N. College Ave.

East 38th Street Library, 5420 E. 38th St.

East Washington Library, 2822 E. Washington St.

Haughville Library, 2121 W. Michigan St.

Nora Library, 8625 Guilford Ave.

Pike Library, 6525 Zionsville Rd.

Shelby Library, 2502 Shelby St.

Southport Library, 2630 E. Stop 11 Road

If you are unable to visit these locations, please call the Indianapolis Bar Association at (317) 269-2000 between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., on April 12 to talk to an attorney.