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State Laws on Child Custody Related to Judges' and Custody Evaluators' Recommendations in Cases of Intimate Partner Violence

Award Information

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Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $37,532)

Serious harm can occur to intimate partner violence (IPV) survivors and their children as a result of family court decisions. Offenders may be able to continue their abuse of ex-partners and their children due to inadequate supervised visitation arrangements or custody of children may be awarded to a violent parent. Only one study has investigated the role of state laws in relation to the recommendations of professionals in these cases and only six states were involved. The purpose of this study is conduct further analysis of a recent, N IJ sponsored national survey of professionals to help better understand the relation between state statutes and professionals' recommendations for custody and visitation in IPV cases. The web-based and mailed survey yielded usable surveys from 465 custody evaluators and 200 judges in 46 states. In addition to reporting their experiences with custody cases involving IPV and their beliefs about custody and IPV, respondents answered questions about a case vignette involving serious, coercive-controlling violence. Respondents also reported on knowledge they had acquired on IPV, the number of survivors they had known, and their work setting, education, and other demographics. The interval level measures showed good to excellent reliability and validity. A bivariate analysis of the possible impact of state laws on the practice of custody evaluators was conducted for the following provisions: 1) Cooperative/friendly parent provision; 2) Presumption of joint custody in general; 3) Restrictions on mediation in IPV cases; 4) Mandated IPV training for mediators/attorneys; 5) Mandated IPV training for evaluators; 6) Mandated IPV training for judges; 7) Opt out or barring of parenting coordinators; 8) IPV given extra weight in determining the best interest of the child; 9) Presumption that abuser will not get custody; 1 0) A parent who kills the other parent does not get custody. This study will use multivariate analysis with sets of variables used to control for other statutes, background, training, demographics, beliefs and other variables. The multivariate analysis will be able to handle dichotomous predictor variables and dichotomous and interval level control variables. The distribution of samples across the states with and without particular statutes provides sufficient samples sizes in all groups for the analysis. The findings of this study will have implications for policy reform on a national level. Findings will be published in professional journals and online newsletters. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 11, 2014