New Jersey residents may be aware that several scientific studies have found that individuals who suffer mistreatment as children are more likely to mete out abuse as adults. Children who are physically abused by their parents often develop psychological issues and emotional problems that can last a lifetime, and they are far more likely to develop substance abuse problems and drop out of school. Courts are meant to make custody decisions based on the child’s best interests, but studies indicate that allegations of domestic violence are often given scant attention and are sometimes ignored altogether.
Custody disputes are often highly acrimonious, and it is not unheard of for parents to make unfounded allegations of neglect or abuse. Family law judges hear all manner of salacious accusations, and genuine accounts of domestic violence may be greeted with skepticism unless they can be substantiated with compelling evidence. One study found that 47 percent of child custodyevaluators who concluded that domestic violence had occurred still recommended joint custody of the children.
Experts blame gender bias and inadequate training for these poor decisions. They say that judges and social workers should see domestic abuse as a pattern of behavior rather than a series of unconnected incidents, and they should be taught how to notice the signs of family violence and its underlying causes. Research indicates that this type of training is particularly important for men as studieshave shown that male judges and child custody evaluators tend to be far more forgiving when confronted with physical abuse.
Contentious child custody disputes can take a toll on many of the individuals involved, but young children may be particularly vulnerable. Parents who disagree on most matters usually want what is best for their children, and an attorney may seize upon this small area of common ground in order to avoid the emotional upheaval of a court battle.