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Child Custody Evaluators' Beliefs About Domestic Abuse Allegations: Their Relationship to Evaluator Demographics, Background, Domestic Violence Knowledge and Custody-Visitation Recommendations

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2011
176 pages
This study examined what child-custody evaluators and other professionals believe about allegations of domestic abuse made by one parent against another in the context of divorce proceedings in which child custody is an issue to be decided by a court.
There were four study objectives. One objective was to investigate the extent to which child custody evaluators and other professionals who make court recommendations believe allegations of domestic violence are false. A second objective was to examine the association between these beliefs and knowledge of domestic violence, as well as recommendations about custody, supervised visitation, and mediation. A third objective was to determine whether beliefs about false allegations of domestic violence are related to beliefs that false allegations of child abuse are common; abuse of parents should not be a criterion in custody and visitation decisions; and that parents often alienate their children from the other parent. A fourth objective was to explore the relationships between beliefs about false allegations and beliefs about patriarchal norms, social dominance, and justice in the world. Based on study findings, implications are drawn for additional research and for practice. Implications for practice pertain to the acquisition of knowledge about specific domestic violence topics, information on false allegations of domestic violence and false allegations of child abuse, and custody recommendations. Practice implications are also discussed regarding how beliefs about false allegations of domestic violence relate to other beliefs and to custody-visitation recommendations; professional degrees, roles, and settings; inquiring about and screening for domestic violence; the selection of custody evaluators by courts; and expanding supervised visitation and exchange programs. The two major components of the study involved a survey of professionals who had experience with custody cases and interviews with domestic abuse survivors who had lost child custody. 12 figures, 16 tables, extensive references, and appended study instruments

Date Published: October 1, 2011