In reanalyzing data from the New York, Safe Horizon Family Court Advocacy Program Study, located in Manhattan, this study examined the outcomes of mothers’ Order of Protection (OP) Petitions in relation to parents’ custody and visitation petitions.
Due to concerns about the extent of children’s exposure to post-separation parental violence, a preliminary study was conducted with participants from Safe Horizon, a private nonprofit crime victims’ assistance organization in New York. The findings indicate that family courts may indeed be considering domestic violence as a factor in granting custody by virtue of the fact that courts grant custody to fathers restrained by Order of Protection (OP) less often than to other fathers. In order to obtain a clearer picture of the impact of OPs on the family court’s custody and visitation decisions, specifically cases where the OP was sought by the mother against the father, this study, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice conducted a reanalysis of the Safe Horizon Family Court study data. The study began by reviewing key findings of the Family Court Study and revisiting questions that were not answered in the original analysis. The reanalysis found that fathers who were restrained from contact with their ex-partners through an OP were at an advantage when it came to securing court-ordered visitation with the children that they had in common with their ex-partners. There may be a direct causal link between mothers obtaining OP petitions and the granting of visitation to the father. In addition, there was a high rate of dismissal of custody petitions brought by fathers in cases where the mothers’ OP petition was granted. Overall, it appears that when couples cannot resolve access to children of the noncustodial parent because of a history of violence, consideration of the safety of the children and victimized parent has not strongly influenced the court’s decisionmaking. Tables, references