When people in New Jersey and elsewhere divorce their abusers, the abusers may try to use child custody as a means to exert continued control over them. Despite evidence that abusers often try to wage custody battles to exert control, Congress has not acted. People who have suffered abuse from their former spouses or partners should be aware that their abusers may try to seek custody of their children simply to control them.
According to the American Judges Association, around 70 percent of domestic abusers are successful in convincing courts that their exes are either unfit parents or should not be granted sole custody. The American Psychological Association reports that while most people assume that battered spouses will be awarded sole custody of their children, most courts believe that it is in the children's best interests to spend time with both parents despite the abuse that has occurred.
Rep. Ted Poe of Texas introduced a resolution in 2016 that would have greatly limited or prevented abusers from gaining custody of their children. However, nothing has been done, and the bill has languished for the past two years.
Domestic violence survivors who are embroiled in custody disputes with their abusers may want to get help from attorneys who are experienced in family law and issues of domestic abuse. Lawyers may help their clients gather the evidence to prove that the abuse has happened and advocate for them by offering statistical evidence concerning the impact of domestic abuse on children and families. Attorneys may work to limit the visitation rights of the abuser and ask that the courts award sole decision-making to their clients. Lawyers may be able to secure supervised visitation orders, orders of protection and orders for exchanges to happen in safe locations.