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Final Report of the "Impact of Legal Representation on Child Custody Decisions Among Families With a History of Intimate Partner Violence Study"

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2015
60 pages
This study tested the hypothesis that legal representation of victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) in child custody cases leads to greater legal protections being awarded in child-custody and visitation decisions compared to similar cases in which IPV victims are not represented by legal counsel.
The overall finding is that attorney representation of IPV victims, particularly by legal-aid attorneys with expertise in IPV cases, resulted in greater protections being awarded to the IPV victims and their children. The study found that in cases where a parent who was an IPV victim had legal representation, the abusive parent was 85 percent more likely to be denied child visitation, and was 77 percent more likely to have restrictions or conditions placed on the abusive parent's child visitation. Also, in the subset of cases in which the abusive parent was awarded visitation, 47 percent were more likely to have treatment or program completion ordered for the abusive parent. These cases were also 46 percent more likely to award sole decisionmaking to the victim parent. This was a retrospective cohort study conducted among King County (Washington) couples with minor children who filed for marriage dissolution between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2010. Only those couples who had a history of police- or court-documented IPV were included in the study. The effect of legal representation of the IPV victim was examined separately according to whether the victim parent was represented by a legal aid attorney or a private attorney. A comparison group of unrepresented abused parents was matched to represented subjects. 5 tables, 2 figures, and 54 references

Date Published: May 1, 2015