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Parents may see improved safety for kids during child custody

When two parents are unable to see eye-to-eye on matters of custody, everyone involved can experience high levels of stress. For some Pennsylvania parents, however, the source of stress is not the child custody case itself but concerns about the safety of their children. When domestic violence is present in a family structure, the victim is often worried that the abuse could be transferred onto the children. To secure a greater measure of protection against that outcome, two U.S. Representatives have introduced a resolution on the manner in which family courts handle cases involving domestic violence.

As it stands, many courts do little or nothing to address allegations of domestic violence in child custody cases. Abusive parents are likely to receive unsupervised parenting time with their children, and some are even able to gain primary custody rights. This occurs partly because courts hesitate to validate claims of abuse, and partly because courts are not always informed of statistics related to domestic violence. According to the Center for Judicial Excellence, more than 580 children have been killed by a parent while involved in a divorce, child support or custody case over the past 10 years, and some of those deaths could have been prevented.   

The resolution asks courts to place the safety of a child at the forefront of each child custody case, even ahead of the best interests of the child. It implores courts to assess claims of abuse and safety concerns as swiftly as possible, and to take appropriate measures to preserve each child's safety. The resolution also addresses the current practice of allowing testimony and evidence from outside parties that are not always in line with scientific standards. Courts are urged to accept such evidence only when it is provided by professionals who are able to demonstrate expertise in the field of victims and abuse, and when the evidence adheres to professional standards.

For victims of domestic violence, ensuring that their children are safe from harm is a top priority. The recently presented resolution aims to improve the manner in which these child custody cases are handled by the courts, and to provide additional safeguards that could protect kids from harm at the hand of a parent. Pennsylvania parents who are faced with a custody challenge by an abuser are urged to seek assistance in presenting a legal argument that will keep their kids out of harm's way.

Source:, "U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan seeks greater protection for kids in custody cases", Beth Brelje, July 31, 2017

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