For Domestic Violence Survivors, Family Court Becomes Site of Continued Abuse

Ending an abusive relationship does not necessarily end the violence and terror, particularly when children are involved. Abusive partners often use custody proceedings to continue their harm through the children.
Feature (NATIONAL)

Victoria Law
March 6, 2016

Tags: Domestic Violence

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Voice


Sara Ainsworth, now the advocacy director of Legal Voice, has worked as a legal aid attorney, taught at a domestic violence legal clinic and worked with attorneys representing abused parents who are also immigrants. “There’s an enormous bias against anyone making accusations [of abuse],” she told Truthout.

Furthermore, Ainsworth noted, the child welfare and family court systems often operate separately. If teachers, doctors, neighbors or even bystanders notice child abuse, they can call child protective services (known as CPS in many states), which will sometimes place a child in foster care pending an investigation. But abused parents are left to navigate safety on their own. “Child protective services will tell [an abused] parent to get a protection order, but not offer resources or help,” Ainsworth noted. In addition, family court judges don’t necessarily take child welfare complaints into consideration when adjudicating custody. “There’s an enormous lack of communication between these two systems,” she said.