Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Battered Mothers’ Testimony Project: A Human Rights Approach to Child Custody and Domestic Violence (June 2003), pp. 33-34, 47-49.
The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence carried out a two year study of 57 battered women who had gone through a custody battle in Arizona family courts. In the Arizona study, 72% of the mothers said they were not given an adequate chance to tell the court their side of the story and 41% were ordered into mediation though the court knew there was violence. (p. 48)
The Arizona studies main findings were:
a. In spite of evidence of violence against women and/or their children, (and with such violence documented in 63% of the cases) the courts consistently ordered sole or joint custody to perpetrators in 74% of the cases in Maricopa County and 56% of the cases in the other counties combined.
b. Income level, which was highly skewed towards father, seemed to have the most impact on the ultimate custody decision.
c. A mother represented by an attorney was more likely to win custody.
d. Having a custody evaluator more likely resulted in the mother losing custody.
e. By and large, the systems of control the perpetrator established pre-divorce, including physical and sexual violence and child abuse, were maintained post-separation with the added ability to use the court system to abuse the victims.
f. Having an order of protection had no impact on the final custody decision; contrary to Arizona law, the courts simply ignored the documented existence of domestic violence.
g. The courts ignored well-known research and federal standards as 100% of the victims were ordered to go to mediation or a face-to-face meeting with the abuser.
h. A large number of perpetrators had weapons or used alcohol or drugs when with children.
i. A large number of judges thought that since the parties were separated, domestic violence was not a concern.
j. In a large number of cases, unsupervised visits were awarded or the supervisor was an untrained person such as a family member.
- Family courts ‘ignoring needs of domestic violence victims’ (guardian.co.uk)