Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2007, $318,212)
The goal of this research is to reduce violence against women and their children by improving the knowledge and ability of custody evaluators and other professionals who make recommendations to the court regarding child custody and visitation matters. The safety of women can be jeopardized when ongoing intimate partner violence is not adequately considered in the court arrangements regarding child custody and visitation. Ultimately this study aims to prevent violent crimes against women by eliminating particular vulnerable occasions and having decision makers focus on the safety needs of abused mothers at times of separation. The study will investigate the extent to which child custody evaluators and other professionals who make family court recommendations hold the belief that women commonly make false allegations of domestic violence in divorce proceedings. Both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used. In a survey of beliefs, the primary respondents will be 445 custody evaluators. In addition, 70 family court judges and relevant court staff will participate in the survey. For comparison purposes, 70 domestic violence advocates will also be surveyed. Qualitative interviews will be conducted with 24 noncustodial domestic abuse survivors in four states. A review of their custody evaluation documents will be conducted. In addition, interviews will be conducted with the key decision-makers in their cases. The findings of the study will form the foundation for studies of training for decision makers and for policy development.