240400 Child Custody Determinations and Post-Separation Violence: Perpetrators' Abusive Tactics and Women's Protective Strategies

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 12:50 PM

April Zeoli, PhD, MPH , School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Echo Rivera, MA , Department of Ecological Community Psychology, Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI
Cris Sullivan, PhD , Department of Ecological Community Psychology, Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI
Sheryl Kubiak, PhD , School of Social Work, Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI
Alexis Norris, MS , School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI
Background/Purpose: Perpetrators of intimate partner violence often engage in post-separation violence after the relationship formally ends. Compounding this, when victims share children in common with perpetrators, court-ordered custody arrangements may leave women unable to completely cut ties with perpetrators—their children's fathers. This research examined whether custody and visitation arrangements protected women and children or inadvertently facilitated post-separation violence. Strategies women employed to protect themselves and their children were also identified. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 mothers who had experienced intimate partner violence at the hands of their ex-husbands and who, within the prior 18 months, had received custody determinations from family court. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using analytic induction. Results/Outcomes: Perpetrators' abuse continued post-separation, and evolved to exert control over their former partners by manipulating court-mandated custody and visitation decrees. In response to the continued abuse, women used a variety of strategies, both within and outside of the court system, to minimize potential violence and its effects on themselves and their children. Conclusions: Many women who have court-ordered custody and visitation determinations for children shared with abusive ex-husbands continue to experience violence and abuse. These court-ordered determinations limit the violence reduction strategies available to women; however women often find creative methods for reducing their perpetrators' level of control of them. Policy recommendations include additional training for court staff, and improved procedures for identifying and minimizing potential danger to women and their children.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe ways in which perpetrators manipulate custody and visitation decrees to exert control over their former partners. 2. Identify strategies used by mothers to minimize the impact of potential violence on themselves and their children.

Keywords: Domestic Violence, Family Violence

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been a member of the research team since the inception of the project.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.