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Intimate Partner Abuse in Divorce Mediation: Outcomes from a Long-Term Multi-Cultural Study

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2011
238 pages
Using several archival court and law enforcement databases, this study documented the prevalence of intimate partner abuse (IPA) among 965 couples involved in the divorce process in one court-mandated mediation program in one jurisdiction; analyzed mediator practices in addressing IPA cases; and assessed mediation, divorce, and post-decree outcomes for IPA cases.
Based on self-reports, just over 90 percent of the cases involved some type of IPA, including threats of or actual physical violence, sexual intimidation, coercion, or assault. Two-thirds of the couples reported IPA incidents in which one or both partners sought services from police, shelters, courts, or hospitals. Only 6 percent of the cases were screened out of mediation because of IPA, and special procedural accommodations were often provided in cases where a parent requested the mediation service to do so because of alleged IPA. Although mediation agreements rarely included restrictions on contact between parents or on parenting, the victims of severe IPA often left mediation without agreements and returned to court in order to obtain restrictions on contact with the other partner and/or restrictions on aspects of parenting. Couples who reached a mediation agreement were less likely to re-litigate in court, which provides support for mediation programs. The study first linked data from clinical interviews used to screen parents for marital stressors and IPA to questionnaire data that also measured specific IPA-related behaviors. The study then linked this IPA data to the mediator's decision concerning whether to identify a case as involving IPA, whether to proceed in mediation, or to screen out IPA-identified cases, as well as whether to provide special procedural accommodations for such cases. The study then linked the IPA and mediator decisions to mediation outcomes and to outcomes in final divorce decrees and parenting plans recorded in Superior Court divorce files. 16 figures, 16 tables, extensive references, and appended supplementary information and study instruments

Date Published: July 1, 2011