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Pennsylvania child custody may be complicated by domestic abuse

Popular opinion is often proved wrong, even for long-held beliefs. For example, those in Pennsylvania who have little personal experience with domestic violence may draw inaccurate conclusions about the victims and their children. However, recently, studies by the American Bar Association about the role of domestic abuse in child custody cases may disprove many of those misconceptions.

One myth people may believe is that removing children from the abuser's custody is the easiest solution, and that children will live a normal life once this happens. However, research shows that abusive spouses may intensify the intimidation of their victims and frequently use their children as part of the scheme. This manipulation may be confusing to children who sometimes develop a bond with the abusers similar to Stockholm syndrome. Their bond with the violent parents may render them incapable of seeing them as abusive.

Additionally, the emotional scars children may have as a result of witnessing abuse between their parents may manifest as health issues later in life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children who witness abuse at home are more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes, as well as depression and alcoholism. They also have a high chance of leading a violent life as adults.

In an effort to win child custody, domestic abusers may claim that they are victims of parental alienation when their victims accuse them of violence. In some courts, such claims may carry enough weight to jeopardize the victims' chances for custody. Pennsylvania parents who are fighting against abusive spouses in custody hearings would do well to have an experienced attorney who will support them and protect their rights.

Source:, "Let's Talk About It: 5 myths about child custody and domestic violence", Sept. 18, 2016

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