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State Laws Related to Family Judges' and Custody Evaluators' Recommendations in Cases of Intimate Partner Violence: Final Summary Overview

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2017
47 pages
This study obtained information on the relationship between State family law statutes and professionals' recommendations for child custody and visitation in cases involving intimate partner violence (IPV).
Study samples consisted of 512 child custody evaluators and 200 judges from 46 States. Survey respondents were asked to make a custody recommendation for a case vignette of custody that involved serious IPV. In addition, evaluators indicated their history of actual recommendations in IPV cases. Eight child-custody laws were related to the custody-visitation outcomes. Under "friendly parent" laws, a standard for custody determination involved deciding which parents need to facilitate a good relationship between their children and the other parent. Only a small percentage of the many statistical relationships assessed were significant. When there were laws that exempted IPV cases from "friendly parent" standards, judges tended to favor victim-supportive outcomes, such as awarding sole custody to victims. These findings generally persisted when controlling for beliefs about IPV and custody, IPV knowledge acquisition, and background characteristics. In an analysis combining both samples, an overall outcome that favored the abuser was significantly higher in "friendly parent" States, even with the presence of laws that presumed the abuser should not have custody. All but eight States have "friendly parent" provisions, and only eight have exemptions for IPV. A policy implication of the findings is that States should consider repealing their "friendly parent" provisions or adding an exemption for IPV. Findings also support the expansion of IPV training for judges and evaluators. Generally, State laws did not predict the type of recommendation for supervised visits, primarily because the laws did not cover supervision; however, States with mandated IPV training for judges had evaluators who were more likely to recommend professional supervision of visits. Implications for future research are also discussed. 3 tables and 47 references

Date Published: March 1, 2017