”The battered women’s movement had made progress for many years, making it easier for victims of domestic violence to obtain protective orders, divorce, financial support, shelter, criminal prosecution and community support. This made it easier for women to leave their abusers which in turn helped reduce the domestic violence homicide rate. Significantly, communities that were most successful in reducing domestic violence crime and particularly homicide included practices to help victims leave their abusers as part of their successful strategy. Abusers have developed a particularly cruel tactic to discourage their partners from leaving by seeking custody in order to pressure mothers to return or punish them for leaving. The custody court system developed practices at a time when no research was available and has failed to reform these outdated approaches after the research established they were working poorly for children.
Abusive fathers have been helped by the development of a cottage industry of professionals who learned they can make substantial incomes by using practices that support abusive fathers because abusers tend to control the family finances. Although most contested custody cases involve domestic violence, the courts have inadvertently supported abusive fathers through the misconception that these cases are “high conflict.” This leads to practices of pressuring battered mothers to cooperate with their abusers instead of pressuring abusive fathers to stop their abuse.
Repeatedly we see cases in which dangerous abusers receive custody and safe, protective mothers are taken out of their children’s lives. These failed practices have led to a reversal in the progress for preventing domestic violence and a rise in domestic violence homicide. For all these reasons the NCADV has made the protective mother issue one of its highest priorities. The Child Custody Institute will be led by Barry Goldstein, co-editor with Mo Therese Hannah of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY which has quickly become the leading book in its field. The faculty will consist of a multi- disciplinary group of the leading national experts in domestic violence and custody. They will present information about current scientific research, focusing on safety issues, the effects of domestic violence on children, best ways to challenge biased and unqualified evaluators, overcoming the widespread failure of courts to believe valid complaints of child sexual abuse, best practices and tips for presenting the best case possible. The Institute will conclude with an interactive discussion of how to reform the system in order to better protect children. We are excited about this Institute and believe it can help start to make a difference. We will provide more details as they become available.”