Guest Author - Kelli Deister
In a family where one parent is abusive and divorce is an issue, custody can be a very ugly issue to handle. The abusive parent may very well use the justice system to their advantage. For instance, when the parents are seeking a divorce, the abusive parent will want to maintain their control over their victims, adult or child. They may do some research and attempt to discredit the parent that is the victim, by painting a bad picture of the other parent. They may attempt to persuade the judge that the other parent cannot handle the responsibility of parenting, due to the lies the abuser tells. The abusive parent has no concern over the best interest of the child. They only seek those things that are in their own favor.
Normally, when parents divorce, custody is an issue. Letís face it, any divorce can make custody issues difficult to contend with. Add to that the fact that one parent abuses and strives to continue to abuse. When they seek legal assistance, they will portray the victimized parent as paranoid or as alienating the children from them. They walk into court looking very professional and behaving well to put on a show in front of the judge overseeing the hearings. They might even seem to have it all together. This is when it is imperative that those in the legal field are educated and properly trained in domestic violence issues. Far too many times, the abusive parent manages, through the court system, to taint the reputation of the victimized parent. They attempt to paint a picture for the court that they are the responsible parent. They seek sole custody oftentimes.
If the professionals hearing the case believe the abuser, the wheels of the legal system begin to turn against the abused parent and child. The abuser tries to convince the judge that any children involved are better off with them. This only further victimizes the other parent and may cause them to spiral into depression or anxiety. When the victim stands before the judge, they oftentimes cannot hide their heightened emotions. This sometimes works in the favor of the abuser. That is exactly how the abusive parent wants things to happen.
Throughout the custody battles in court, the children are the ones most affected. They are the ones that are told they must go to visitation with the abuser, even if they donít want to. Even if they are afraid of the abusive parent, they must still go because the court orders them to. When this happens, there is no thought of whether or not the children may be in danger. The children also may witness arguments between both parents. They may witness the victimized parent as they struggle through the court proceedings and rightfully so. However, it takes its toll on the child.
I believe that all professionals in the legal field should begin to take educating themselves on matters of abuse very seriously. The more education, the more prevention of abuse. In other words, if professionals will attend seminars, or simply sit down with another professional that deals specifically with abusive matters, they may then begin to turn the wheels of justice in the right direction.