Law Reform

Behind closed doors of the family court system, thousands of women each year lose child custody to the abusive parent. Many Americans are unaware that family courts have become the ultimate battleground for abusers to aggressively fight for custody of children as a way of punishing the victim and continuing to exert power and control over him/her. This is known as "legal abuse." Shockingly, courts are more likely to award custody or unsupervised visitation to the male perpetrator in 70 percent of cases, resulting in 58,000 children being court-ordered into the unsupervised custody of the abusive parent, according to the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence. These are traumatic family separations between children and their protective mothers. The problem is rampant, and perhaps the most pressing issue in the area of domestic violence reform. 

Why is this occurring? The problem is due, in part, to deeply ingrained bias against women alleging domestic and/or sexual abuse in custody litigation- a problem that is well documented and supported by empirical research and data. Another factor entails courts erroneously giving credence to the abuser's claims of parental alienation, nothing more than  "junk science" wholly unsupported by empirical research and data. It is critical, therefore, that we continue to educate judges, lawyers and legislators, and hold them accountable as we advocate for law reform measures to address gender forms of violence in family courts and provide basic resources to protect individual human rights. 

Many batterers' motivation to intimidate and control their victims through the children increases after separation, due to the loss of other methods of exerting control.


Experts Discuss Bias Against Women 

in Child Custody Litigation


Best-Selling Author Lundy Bancroft

Clinical Law Professor Joan Meier 

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