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Child Custody Mediation's Failure to Protect: Why Should the Criminal Justice System Care?

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2002
0 pages
This videotape from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is part of an ongoing series highlighting the research of individuals with NIJ funding.
Part of the Research in Progress Seminar series, this videotape begins with an introduction from Glenn R. Schmitt, Deputy Director of the NIJ. After explaining that the NIJ hosts progress seminars so that researchers with NIJ funding may discuss the status of their ongoing research and the conclusions they have reached thus far, Glenn Schmitt introduces the seminar’s main speakers, researchers Dr. Dennis Secuzzo and Dr. Nancy Johnson. With backgrounds in both law and psychology, Secuzzo and Johnson begin a Power Point presentation of their research on child custody mediation. Johnson argues that custody disputes are referred to mediators, 50 to 80 percent of the time. Providing background information concerning their research on child custody mediation, Secuzzo maintains that child custody mediators are not confidential, voluntary, neutral individuals with no authority; child custody mediators’ recommendations are often directly related to final court outcomes. Drawing on their research in California, these researchers present details on California’s laws, courts, and how information generated by child custody mediators is used in custody disputes. For their study, these researchers used random sampling to analyze data from 200 domestic violence child custody cases and 200 non-domestic violence child custody cases, filed in family court in 1996, in which the parties did not have their dispute solved by a mediator. After discussing their 120 research variables, the researchers describe how domestic violence was assessed, detailing the domestic violence cases. Preliminary findings indicate that mediators failed to address issues of domestic violence more often than not. Furthermore, these researchers contend that based on evidence of legal and physical custody, supervised visitation, and protected child exchange outcomes, they found that there was often more concern about a child’s safety, on the part of the mediator, when no domestic violence was alleged. The researchers conclude that the presence of domestic violence may obscure the relevance of other risk factors and that victims of domestic violence and their children are poorly served by child custody mediators.

Date Published: September 1, 2002