BATTERED MOTHERS IN NEW JERSEY FACE DISCRIMINATION…

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DO BATTERED MOTHERS IN NEW JERSEY FACE DISCRIMINATION IN THE COURTS?

When two people in Monmouth County are in the process of getting a divorce, there are often many accusations made. One partner may claim that the other is withholding assets, is guilty of extra-marital affairs or even that the other partner is addicted to illegal substances. When a battered mother makes a claim of domestic violence in a child custody case, she may find herself at a distinct disadvantage.

According to the New Jersey State Police, over 70,000 cases of domestic violence were reported in the state during 2011. Out of that number, 3 percent of the victims were ex-wives, 18 percent were wives and 76 percent of the cases involved women.
Battered mothers often at a disadvantage

For over 10 years a conference has taken place to discuss the disadvantages that battered mothers face in the U.S. court system. According to The Washington Post, one of the speakers of the most recent conference, which was held at George Washington School of Law, used the story of a mother who objected to unsupervised visits for her 15-month old with his father. The father killed the child. Domestic violence advocates, victims and experts hope to make changes in the way that child custody decisions are made when abuse is involved.

Many courts, including those in New Jersey, encourage parents to share custody of the children, deeming it in the children’s best interest. However The Advocates for Human Rights points out the fact that abusive fathers often use this attitude to continue their abusive behavior towards their victims. While abusive fathers often do not show interest in their children, they are more likely to seek sole custody. They may even file motion after motion in an attempt to emotionally, financially, and mentally bankrupt their victims.

Court evaluator beliefs about battered mothers

In 2011, a report was presented to the U.S. Department of Justice that was based on several surveys conducted among court child custody evaluators. The surveys asked participants about their beliefs related to domestic violence and were sent out to professionals across the country. The report revealed the following:

  • Personal experience with domestic violence made evaluators more likely to believe claims of abuse.
  • In about half of cases where domestic violence claims were made, evaluators believed that violence occurred.
  • Evaluators, private attorneys and judges were more prone to believe that mothers make false claims of abuse.
  • Evaluators recommended legal and physical custody solely to the mother in 65 percent of cases where domestic violence was clearly present.
  • Visitation was recommended without supervision to abusive fathers in a third of all cases where domestic violence was proven
  • The report shows that there is a strong need for education and changes within the family court system with emphasis on protecting battered mothers and their children. This will help evaluators understand domestic violence and the effect that it has on the victims and children involved.

When battered mothers are facing a custody dispute with their abuser, they should seek out the help of an experienced attorney to protect their rights.

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