Domestic violence and child custody cases: Do courts listen to mothers?

New Jersey courts are supposed to protect women and children from violence but often abusive fathers are handed custody.

In 2012, the New Jersey State Police reported that 29 percent of cases involving domestic violence concerned children in some way. Overall, officers in the state responded to more than 65,000 calls relating to domestic violence and 75 percent of the victims were women. Harassment and assault were listed as the two most common offenses.

For mothers who are victims of violence at the hand of their children's father, they really only have one option and that is to get out for the protection of their children. However, there is evidence to suggest that these mothers may not get treated fairly by the courts that are supposed to protect them.

Fathers who abuse will often fight for custody

It is a well-known fact that the force behind domestic violence is the need of the abuser to control the victim. In custody situations that involve abuse, it is not uncommon for the abusive parent to use the legal system as another way to harass the other, according to The Advocates for Human Rights. Since the abusive father can no longer control the mother through physical force, or through mental or emotional manipulation, he sees the court as an alternative.

These fathers are not fighting because they love their children and they want to be a part of their lives. Rather, they usually don't have any interest in them other than as a way to control their mother. These fathers don't go to their sons' baseball game or engage in tea parties with their daughters. In fact, they often ignore their children, leaving the responsibility and care to the mother.

Shared parenting guidelines could expose children to abuse

The Philly Voice points out that the existence of shared parenting laws often works against mothers who have been abused. If a woman succeeds in getting herself and her children into a shelter and obtaining a domestic protection order, those acts may actually work against her. This is due to the fact that the abusive father often claims that the mother is doing these things to prevent him from having access to his children. Sadly, many courts will see the behavior as manipulative on the part of the mother and will hand over sole custody to the abusive father.

Fathers who were abusive to the mother have been known to abuse their children or even kill them while the children are in their care. The American Mothers Political Party movement, which encourages accountability and justice, states that this has occurred in New Jersey. One father is facing criminal charges over the death of his daughter. The home in which the father and his girlfriend lived with the girl became the scene of a criminal investigation after a crawl space was found to contain her remains. The father had faced child abuse allegations but a New Jersey court still gave him custody of the child.

When mothers have been the victims of domestic violence, it is important for them to take the right steps. Therefore, they find it helpful to discuss their situation with a qualified attorney.