Crisis In The Family Courts

Kansas: Domestic Violence Survivor & Mother who Testified Against the State has Felony Warrant Issued Against her for Wanting To see Her Babies!!

Posted in domestic law by abatteredmother on February 28, 2010
  1. KansasWatchdog Warrant out in Wichita for arrest of Cecelia Arnold for trying to see her kids. Reform badly needed. VIDEO: 2 hours
  2. KansasWatchdog

    Warrant out in Wichita for arrest of Cecelia Arnold for trying to see her kids. Reform badly needed. AUDIO:

 How can wanting to see your child whom the mother has never physically harmed be a felony, but yet, domestic violence, battery on another person (a physical crime, potentially fatal, bond $2,500.00)  is only a misdemeanor?????????  $10,000.00 bond

Listen to Cecillia Arnold:

Warrant Details  

Race: B Sex: F Age: 24
Height: 506 Weight: 150
Hair: BLK Eyes: BRO

Warrant Id: 92696
Court Case No.: 2009CR003679
Felony/Misdemeanor: F
Bond: $10,000.00


Compelling stories from parents and grandparents about problems with placement and removal of children

By Earl Glynn On December 4, 2009

Abused mom Cecillia Arnold lost her parental rights. She wants her kids back.

“I did all court orders and my girls were placed back home with me”

“The case workers changed many times. I couldn’t get through to them sometimes.”

“The reintegration itself … was going well”

“I had stability. I had a home. I had a job. I had everything that they would ask someone to do for reintegration to occur.”

“My abuser … was going to jail at the time at the time the girls were removed from home. He was incarcerated for, I think, it was two years for the crime he committed against me.”

“The girls were removed from home for the second time.”

“The assistant [Sedgwick County] DA … filed a petition for termination [of parental rights], and after … the trial termination was granted.”

“As of now I have not seen my children since March of this year”

“During the trial I had testimony from different people — the foster care parents … — their testimony was overlooked.”

“… bad experiences with DCCA …”

“They said the reason for termination was … me not following the reintegration plan. That was not true.”

“… the ball got dropped on me from the Agency that was contracted through the courts … They didn’t do the job that they were supposed to do, which resulted in my girls being removed from home”

Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau: “Her parents are in the audience … They have been denied custody of their grandchildren, too, and told there were too old; they were too sick.”

State Rep Bill Otto (R-LeRoy): “Your rights are severed?”

Arnold: “My rights have been terminated … I have no rights to my children. I have not seen them since March. I filed an appeal that didn’t go anywhere. I’m here today because I want my children back.” …

Otto: “Where was your lawyer?” …

Arnold: “I had court-appointed attorneys … I feel I could have done a better job representing myself” ..

Otto: “This should not happen to anybody … I’m so sorry.” …

Chair Kiegerl: “Your problem mainly is with the courts, although, I’m sure, the agency’s testimony was instrumental in the decision. … My heart goes out to you …I wish there were a magic wand that … we could use to solve your problem.”

Arnold left in tears.

Listen to Cecillia Arnold:

Watch this Kansas Watchdog YouTube Video of Arnold explaining her case.

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Posted in domestic law by abatteredmother on February 28, 2010



From BBC News:


Father and daughter

Fathers’ mental health problems can affect their children

Children whose fathers have mental health disorders are likely to have psychiatric or behavioural disorders themselves, researchers warn.

University of Oxford experts reviewed existing evidence and said, in the Lancet, there had been too much focus on mothers’ mental health issues.

They said boys in particular could be affected if their father had depression or was an alcoholic.

Mental health campaigners said men often had problems seeking help.


The Oxford team said it was not surprising much of researchers’ emphasis had focused on mothers as, in most societies, it is mothers who provide the majority of childcare – particularly when children are very young.

But they said the role of men had been “underemphasised” and that they had more influence on their children’s development than previously thought.

In addition, the peak age for men to be affected by psychiatric disorders is the same as the peak age for becoming a father – between 18 and 35.

Paternal depression during the postnatal period, measured at eight weeks after birth, has been associated with increasing the chance of the child subsequently developing behavioural and emotional problems from 10% to 20%.

Teenage offspring of depressed fathers also have an increased risk of various psychological problems, including depression and suicidal behaviour.

Around 2% of men are affected by generalised anxiety disorder, and children whose parents have anxiety disorders have a two-fold increased risk of developing such disorders themselves, researchers say.

Previous studies have also found links between a father’s alcoholism and an increased risk of conduct disorders, where children behave aggressively and destructively and abuse substances – particularly in sons.

Paternal alcoholism is also associated with an increased risk of mood disorders, depressive symptoms, poor performance at school, low self-esteem and problems forming relationships.

Adolescents whose parents have bipolar disorder are up to 10 times more likely than adolescents with mentally healthy parents to develop bipolar disorder, and three to four times more likely to develop other psychiatric illness, research suggests.

‘Nurturing role’

The Oxford team, led by psychiatrist Professor Paul Ramchandani, said more research was needed on how fathers’ psychiatric disorders affect their children’s development.

He said: “Fathers are more involved in child-rearing in countries including the UK than they used to be.

“In years gone by, if fathers were depressed and distant it may not have made much of an impact.

“We now need a more general understanding of what effects psychiatric problems in fathers can have on children.”

Emily Wooster, policy and campaign manager for the mental health charity Mind, said: “Men’s roles in bringing up children have changed significantly over the last century, with many dads now taking on an active ‘nurturing role’ so it’s important that there is more research into the relationship between fathers’ mental health problems and how these may affect their children.

“Mind has found that men often have difficulties coming forward and talking about their mental health problems, perhaps because of the way they are socialised into being ’strong, tough men’ who can’t show their emotions.”

She said the charity was due to launch a campaign next week calling for “male-friendly” mental health services and better support for men.

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Posted in domestic law by abatteredmother on February 28, 2010



More on maternal deprivation. A study completed at McGill Universityconfirms maternal care has an effect on children. Imagine not having that maternal care…being deprived of your mother, and how it affects future suicide victims.

Remember Robert Hawkins, the boy who shot up the mall in Omaha, Nebraska.  His father had custody of him:

Throughout most of his life, he and his family were plagued by his psychiatric problems. The day after he turned 14, he was sent to a mental health treatment center for threatening to kill his stepmother with an axe.

Robert HawkinsRobert Hawkins

Four months later, he became a ward of the State of Nebraska, which lasted nearly four years. He had undergone two psychiatric hospitalizations, and was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, an unspecified mood disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and parent-child relationship problems. His extensive treatments cost the state USD$265,000.

On December 5th 2007,  Robert Hawkins, went to Westroads Mall in Omaha and fired against employees and customers in a department store, killing eight people and then he killed himself.

Maribel Rodriguez, Robert’s mother said in interviews she was deeply devastated. She hasn’t had custody of her son since Robert was around 4 years old but she said that had a good relationship with her son and felt the obligation to apologize for what he did. Robert was without hope, without faith and without courage she added.

Who was the first one he told “I love you” on his suicide note?  Mommy.  This is what maternal deprivation gets you.  Now, the information from the study…

Childhood trauma has life-long effect on genes and the brain

Study confirms effects of early environment in brains of suicide victims

McGill University and Douglas Institute scientists have discovered that childhood trauma can actually alter your DNA and shape the way your genes work. This confirms in humans earlier findings in rats, that maternal care plays a significant role in influencing the genes that control our stress response.

Using a sample of 36 brains; 12 suicide victims who were abused; 12 suicide victims who were not abused and 12 controls, the researchers discovered different epigenetic markings in the brains of the abused group. These markings influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function, a stress-response which increases the risk of suicide.

This research builds upon findings published last May that showed how child abuse can leave epigenetic marks on DNA.

But, in this, the first study of its kind, Moshe Szyf, a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics; Gustavo Turecki, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry who practices at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute; Michael Meaney, a professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology and Neurosurgery, who is also at the Douglas; and McGill postdoctoral research fellow Patrick McGowan have built on their world-renowned epigenetics work to uncover how parental care affects the DNA in the brains of a group of Quebec male suicide victims who suffered abuse as children. The all-McGill study is set to be published in the February 22, issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

“We know from clinical experience that a difficult childhood can have an impact on the course of a person’s life”, said Dr. Turecki.
“Now we are starting to understand the biological implications of such psychological abuse,” added Dr. Szyf.

“The function of our DNA is not as fixed as previously believed, said Dr. Meaney. “The interaction between the environment and the DNA plays a crucial role in determining our resistance to stress thus the risk for suicide. Epigenetic marks are the product of this interaction.”

Epigenetics is the study of changes in the function of genes that don’t involve changes in the sequences of DNA. The DNA is inherited from our parents; it remains fixed throughout life and is identical in every part of the body. During gestation and even later in development, however, the genes in our DNA are marked by a chemical coating called DNA methylation. These marks are somewhat sensitive to one’s environment, especially early in life. The epigenetic marks punctuate the DNA and program it to express the right genes at the appropriate time and place.

The researchers discovered that maternal care influences hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function in the rat through epigenetic programming of certain receptors in the brain. In humans, child abuse alters HPA stress responses and increases the risk for suicide.

In previous studies in laboratory rats, the group proved that simple maternal behaviour such as mothers who licked their pups during early childhood has a profound effect on the epigenetic marks on specific genes and effects on behaviour in ways that are sustained throughout life. However, these effects on gene expression and stress responses can also be reversed in adult life through treatments known to affect the epigenetic mark known as DNA methylation.

The brain samples in the latest study came from the Quebec Suicide Brain Bank, administered by Dr. Turecki of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute. With the support of the Bureau du Coroner du Québec (Office of the Chief Medical Examiner), the McGill Group for Suicide Studies (MGSS) founded the Quebec Suicide Brain Bank (QSBB) at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, to promote studies on the phenomenon of suicide. Research carried out on brain tissue can help develop intervention and prevention programs to help people suffering mental distress and who are at risk of committing suicide.

The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the National Institute of Child Health and Development (USA).

Please visit McGill’s website for this story.

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Mother of children drowned in bathtub to speaks at House hearings for protective orders.

Posted in domestic law by abatteredmother on February 28, 2010

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Mother Fights to Change Law After Husband Killed Children – Watch more Videos at Vodpod.


Amy Castillo, the Montgomery County pediatrician whose ex-husband drowned their three children in a hotel room bathtub in 2008, is scheduled to testify in Annapolis today to support a bill that would make it easier to receive court-approved protective orders.

Here is her prepared testimony.

Before her husband killed their children, Castillo tried to get a protective order to keep him away. A judge denied her request. Maryland law requires "clear and convincing evidence" to grant protective orders. The billwould lower the bar to "preponderance of the evidence."

Efforts to apply that standard to protective orders have failed in the past in the Maryland legislature. The group Justice For Children also will argue for lowering the burden of proof.

Here is a video of Amy Castillo discussing her husband’s guilty plea in October.

The legal issues involving child custody disputes and protective orders can be complicated, and difficult for judges to sort through, as was the case with the Castillo’s.

Dan Morse

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Rebellion in the California court system

Posted in domestic law by abatteredmother on February 28, 2010



Vic Lee
More: Bio, E-mail, News Team

They call themselves "the alliance." Others call them rebels. They are a group of California judges who say the state’s judicial branch is no longer serving the people and they are demanding reform.

Last month, Judge David Lampe from Kern County made a public appeal to the California Judicial Council to stop closing courthouses one day a month. It is a decision the council says it made because of the state’s budget crisis.

Lampe says his plea fell on deaf ears.

"I believe that a lot of judges felt they did not have a sufficient voice in the decision that closed our courts," he said.

That decision was made by the 27 judges who sit on the judicial council. They make statewide policy and administer the multi-billion dollar budget for California’s courts. Members of the judicial council are appointed by the chief justice of the state supreme court, who also presides over its meetings. The council’s staff is called the AOC, short for Administrative Office of the Courts.

The court closures and employee furloughs have triggered an open revolt against the council by some of California’s 1,700 judges.

"A very insular, elite group of folks has run this branch for now 15 years or so," Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charles Horan.

Some judges began complaining that the judicial council and the AOC were becoming a remote bureaucracy; all too powerful and all too secretive with the court’s budget. Last September, these judges formed what they called the alliance — a sort of pro-democracy movement.

Lee: Is this something like Star Wars: Alliance versus evil empire?

Horan: You know, I must be truthful, there is a certain element of that and you’re not the first person to notice it.

Judges Horan and Lampe helped organize the alliance which now has more than 200 members from across the state. They are shopping a bill in Sacramento that would create an advisory group of judges from each of the 58 superior court districts to provide oversight on the judicial council’s budget decisions.

"The governance there is very much out of touch with the branch, out of touch with what’s happening in the local courts and out of touch with the view of the public," Lampe said.

Alliance members point to the expensive upgrade project for the court’s computer system during these lean times.

"They went from a month ago apparently $1.4 billion estimate to now $1.7. The numbers fly around and are mind-boggling," Horan said. "It’s a million dollars per judge. One million dollars per judge by the time they’re done."

The alliance complains that judicial council votes are almost always unanimous.

"There are 21 voting members currently of the judicial council," Lampe said. "Our research discloses that except for four instances over the last 13 years, all of their decisions have been 21 to nothing,"

The alliance says the council’s staff, the AOC, has grown to a huge bureaucracy of nearly 1,000 state employees. The AOC gave pay raises to dozens of staffers during the height of the budget crisis when most judges took a voluntary 5 percent pay cut.

This angers alliance members like Judge Quentin Kopp of San Francisco.

"It is incompatible with the prudent administration of money," Kopp said. "It makes no sense to be adding to compensation for people in the AOC."

The AOC counters by saying despite the pay raises, there have been voluntary furloughs and no cost of living increases.

"So we’ve been very conservative in terms of our costs and payroll at the AOC," Ronald Overholt with the AOC said.

Judicial council members ABC7 spoke with bristled at the alliance’s criticism of them, saying their decisions are influenced by a broad spectrum of judges.

"It’s not just those of us sitting in that room, but it’s about 500 judges around the state who sit on committees and bring reports to us and work very hard day in and day out," California Appellate Court Justice Brad Hill said.

"Everything is vetted, everything goes out for public comment," California Appellate Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said. "We seek public comment on every proposal, every rule, every idea."

The public, that is who the rebel judges say they are fighting for. After all, Lampe says, it is the people’s court, not theirs.

"We do know the value of speaking with one voice as a branch," Lampe said. "I think to speak with one voice, that voice must first be found. Work with us to give the people a voice. Thank you very much."

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Mother Fights to Change Law After Husband Killed Children

Posted in domestic law by abatteredmother on February 28, 2010

Amy Castillo’s husband killed their 3 children

Updated: Friday, 26 Feb 2010, 12:26 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 25 Feb 2010, 7:15 PM EST

BY SHERRI LY/myfoxdc

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – When Amy Castillo’s husband, Mark, killed her three children nearly two years ago she knew he’d carried out his threat.

"He said well really the worse thing I could do is kill the children and not you so you have to live without them," Castillo said.

Fifteen months earlier she told a Montgomery County judge the same story but he denied her final protective order because there wasn’t "clear and convincing evidence."

Castillo says she was devastated.

The interim protective order had already angered her estranged husband, who suffered from mental illness and transcripts show had planned to violently end his own life.

"I think he would have had to have hurt them before, in the past, actually physically injured them. All along I felt that you have to actually hurt someone or prove you sexually abused them before you can get any help," Castillo said.

It’s happened over and over to victims of abuse in Maryland. Victims try to get a protective order only to be denied sometimes with deadly consequences.

Yvette Cade, a Prince George’s County woman was burned four years ago by her ex-husband after a judge removed a protective order as well.

In Castillo’s case she said, "It went from threats to now they’re dead. There wasn’t anything in between."

So today Castillo went to Annapolis to fight for the protection her children six-year-old Anthony, four-year-old Austin and two-year-old Athena did not get.

She testified during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in support of a bill that lowers the standard for protective orders to a "preponderance of evidence."

Maryland is the only state that requires the standard of proof for a protective order be "clear and convincing evidence."

At least three times previously, lawmakers in Annapolis have tried to lower this standard, making it easier for someone to get a protective order. Each time it failed.

"People are in dangerous situations and in Amy’s case, the dear children lost their lives because of our high standard of proof in Maryland. That’s unacceptable," said Delegate Sue Hecht (D) Frederick County, the bill’s main sponsor.

Historically, the judiciary committee has been hesitant to change laws.

It took Hecht seven years to get a child sex abuse crime of violence law passed and expects another tough fight on this one.

She ran a domestic violence center for 12 years.

"We had a woman shot in the face of my home county. This year she had been denied a protective order in two counties before she got shot in the face," Hecht said.

No word on when the committee will vote, but the Frederick lawmaker, is hopeful she’ll have the votes to get the bill out of committee this time. Even with a protective order critics say enforcement is sometimes lacking but at least it gives victims another tool.

"You have to have something in place where not only the woman feels like she’s being back up but there’s teeth behind that," said Eileen King, Regional Director for Justice for Children-DC, an advocacy group for children and families.

"I never tried to get a protective order again," Castillo said after failing the first time, "because I felt like not only was it not helpful, it was useless."

By seeking the protective order, "it made him much more angry," Castillo said and without it she had nothing to stop him.

Castillo says she can look back now and say "I told you so" and wonders if she got the protective order would her children be alive.


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Mother Backs Easier Access To Protective Orders

Posted in domestic law by abatteredmother on February 28, 2010

Mother Backs Easier Access To Protective Orders


Pat Warren


Click to enlarge

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The mother of three children who were drowned in a downtown hotel bathroom by their father testified for easier access to protective orders.



The mother of three children who were drowned in a downtown hotel bathroom by their father testified for easier access to protective orders.

But as political reporter Pat Warren reports, not everyone is convinced it’s necessary.

Dr. Amy Castillo hopes her devastating loss will somehow serve to help others in dire circumstances.

"I’m a pediatrician in Montgomery County, and I’m the mother who lost my 2, 4 and 6-year-old children when my husband drowned them in a bathtub in Baltimore almost two years ago," she said.

The deaths of her children at the hands of their father came just days after she tried and failed to get a protective order against her husband Mark Castillo.

"He told me that he could sabotage the house if he wanted to, and then he said, ‘Actually I could kill all of you if I wanted to.’ And then he said, ‘The worst thing I could do would be to kill your children and not you so that you would have to live without them,’" said Amy Castillo.

A House committee is considering a bill to lower the burden of proof for obtaining a protection order from clear and convincing evidence to a preponderance of evidence. That’s like going from "not a doubt" to "there’s a good chance" that the person seeking the order could be in danger.

"I think that when you’re in fear of your life and for your children, and you make that move to step out and do something about it, and then you go to get a protective order, and you don’t get it, it’s just really devastating. The other person is twice as angry, and you really — it’s like a discouragement to make a change in your life that needs to be made," said Amy Castillo.

But Montgomery County Delegate Luiz Simmons is among those who believe the clear and convincing standard is working, with only 14 percent of requests denied.

"When you examine them more closely, sometimes you find that the truth is a little bit more complicated than a bumper sticker," said Simmons.

The Maryland State Office of the Public Defender has taken a position of opposition to the bill.

Supporters include the Women’s Legislative Caucus and the Coalition To Protect Maryland’s Children.

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Child Custody and Visitation Decisions in Domestic Violence Cases: Legal Trends, Research Findings, and Recommendations

Posted in domestic law by abatteredmother on February 26, 2010

Child Custody and Visitation Decisions in Domestic Violence Cases: Legal Trends, Research Findings, and Recommendations Daniel G. Saunders

It may be hard to believe an abusive partner can ever make good on his threat to take the children away from his victim. After all, he has a history of violent behavior and she almost never does. Unfortunately, a surprising number of battered women lose custody of their children. The actual number is not known and offenders appear to be no more successful in gaining custody than non-offenders (Liss & Stahly, 1993). However, violence against one parent by another is often considered in custody-determination proceedings (Family Violence Project, 1995). This document describes some of the legal and cultural trends surrounding custody and visitation decisions and the social science evidence supporting a need to consider domestic violence in these decisions.

Legal Trends

Over the past 200 years, the bases for child custody decisions have changed considerably. The patriarchal doctrine of fathers’ ownership of children gave way in the 1920’s and 30’s to little preference for one parent or the other obtaining custody. When given such broad discretion, judges tended to award custody to mothers, especially of young children. The mother-child bond during the early, "tender years" was considered essential for children’s development. In the 1970’s, "the best interests of the children" became the predominant guideline (Fine & Fine, 1994) and presumably was neutral regarding parental rights. Exposure to domestic violence was not originally included in the list of factors used to determine the child’s best interest.

States recently came to recognize that domestic violence needs to be considered in custody decisions (Cahn, 1991; Hart, 1992; for a review of state laws see Family Violence Project, NCJFCJ, 1995, and legislative updates for 1995, 1996, and 1997). While a growing number of states specifically mention domestic violence as a factor to be considered, most of them allow wide discretion and do not give it special weight. It is simply one additional factor when considering the best interests of the child. By the end of the 1997 legislative session, 13 states had adopted the Model Code of the Family Violence Project of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCFCJ, 1998). These statutes specify that there is a "rebuttable presumption that it is detrimental to the child and not in the best interest of the child to be placed in sole custody, joint legal custody, or joint physical custody with the perpetrator of family violence" (p. 33).

Statutes now address other concerns related to custody and the recent proliferation of legislation seems likely to continue. Statutes in some states now cover: the prevention of child abduction by the perpetrator through supervised visitation and similar safeguards (Girdner & Hoff, 1996; Hart, 1990), providing a defense against child abduction charges if battered women flee with their children, exempting battered women from mandated mediation (Girdner, 1996), protecting battered women from charges of "child abandonment" if they flee for safety without their children (Cahn, 1991), and allowing parents to check on the criminal charges against a divorce partner (Pennsylvania’s Jen & Dave’s law). Recent case law makes it easier for battered women to relocate far away from their abusers (Dunford-Jackson, in press). Unfortunately, courts may apply psychological pressures that keep women tied to their abusers. "Friendly parent" statutes ask courts to assess each parent’s willingness to co-parent when making custody decisions (Zorza, 1992). Despite their reasonable reluctance to co-parent, battered women may end up being labeled "uncooperative," with an increased risk of losing their children. Along with legal changes, training and resource manuals for judges and court managers have recently been published, including guidelines for selecting custody evaluators and guardian ad litems (Goelman, Lehrman, Valente, 1996; Lemon, Jaffe, & Ganley, 1995; NCJFCJ, 1995; National Center for State Courts, 1997). For further discussion of these topics, see the references at the end of this document.

General Views About Joint Custody

Enthusiasm for joint custody in the early 1980’s was fueled by studies of couples who were highly motivated to "make it work" (Johnston, 1995). This enthusiasm has waned in recent years, in part because of social science findings. For example, Johnston (1995) concluded from her most recent review that "highly conflictual parents" (not necessarily violent) had a poor prognosis for becoming cooperative parents and there is increasing evidence that children of divorce have more problems because of the conflict between the parents before the divorce and not because of the divorce itself (Kelly, 1993). "High conflict" parents should be allowed to develop separate parenting relationships with their children. Frequent visits and joint custody schedules led to more verbal and physical abuse. More frequent transitions between high-conflict parents were related to more emotional and behavioral problems of the children. If this is true of "high conflict" parents, it is likely to be even more true if mothers are being physically victimized.

Not all social scientists conclude that joint custody can be problematic. For example, Bender (1994) believes that "even the small percentage of parents who are very angry may be able to work out procedures to alleviate anger so that the child is not caught in the middle" (p. 126). However, his conclusion relies on data gathered at one point in time and thus statements about cause and effect are not possible. For example, better child adjustment is likely to result when joint custody is requested by (or ordered to) non-violent, low-conflict couples rather than from joint custody per se. Joint custody can be quite beneficial to the children of these non-violent, low-conflict couples, but not in cases of battering.

Parents Most at Risk for Physical and Emotional Abuse of a Child

Social science evidence can help to establish which parent is most likely to harm children. The most convincing evidence for the potential of men who batter their partners also to batter their children comes from a nationally representative survey (Straus, 1983). Half the men who battered their wives also abused their children. Abuse was defined as violence more severe than a slap or a spanking. Battered women were half as likely as men to abuse their children. Several non-representative surveys show similar results (reviewed in Saunders, 1994). When battered women are not in a violent relationship, there is some evidence that they are much less likely to direct anger toward their children (Walker, 1984).

Emotional abuse of children by men who batter is even more likely because nearly all of these men’s children are exposed to domestic violence (Pagelow, 1990). This exposure often constitutes a severe form of child abuse since the problems associated with witnessing abuse are now clearly documented (e.g., Edleson, 1997). There are short and long-term emotional and behavioral consequences for both boys and girls. Parents may not realize that their children can be affected even if they do not see the violence. For example, the children may be hiding in their bedrooms listening to repeated threats, blows, and breaking objects. Obviously, they may be afraid their mother will be injured or killed, but they may also have divided loyalties between their parents, guilt about not being able to intervene, and anger at their mothers for not leaving (Saunders, 1994). If mothers cannot find safety, their fears and depression may keep them from being as nurturing and supportive to their children as they normally would

Although state laws include emotional abuse in their statutory definitions of child abuse, such abuse is difficult to substantiate and child protection workers often give it low priority.

Mothers may also be blamed for harming their children in cases where evaluators and practitioners do not understand the dynamics of abuse (Edleson, 1997). Their cases are sometimes labelled as "failure to protect" since they are supposedly able to protect their children from the physical and emotional abuse of their partners (Enos, 1996). Battered women may even face criminal charges (Sierra, 1997). However, battered women’s actions often come from their desire to care for their children. They may not attempt to leave because of financial needs, because they believe that the children need a father, or because they fear losing the children to their abuser. They often leave the relationship when they see the impact of violence on their children, only to return when threatened with even greater violence or out of economic necessity. Innovative programs, like Project Protect in Massachusetts, were developed to address these concerns. They use specially trained staff and multidisciplinary teams to integrate interventions for child abuse and domestic violence (Davidson, 1995). On a policy level, states generally allow evidence to show that the non-abusive spouse feared retaliation from her partner and thus could not try to stop or prevent abuse to the child. However, only a few states explicitly authorize this type of evidence.

Factors Related to Risk to the Children

In a given custody case, a number of factors related to or incorrectly attributed to child abuse and exposure to domestic violence may be present. Several factors–parental separation, childhood victimization of the parents, the parents’ psychological characteristics, and abuser interventions– are discussed next.

Parental Separation. Parental separation or divorce does not prevent abuse to children or their mothers. On the contrary, physical abuse, harassment, and stalking of women continue at fairly high rates after separation and divorce. In one study, a fourth of the women reported threats against their lives during visitation (Leighton, 1989). Separation is a time of increased risk of homicide for battered women (Wilson & Daly, 1994) and these homicides sometimes occur during custody hearings or visitation exchanges of children. In rare cases, men kill children in retaliation for their female partners leaving them.

Children are also likely to be exposed to renewed violence if their fathers become involved with other women. Over half of men who batter go on to abuse a second woman (Wofford, Elliot, & Menard, 1994). Judges who consider the remarriage of a man to be a sign of stability and maturity should instead consider it as a possible sign that the children will once again be emotionally harmed.

Parents’ Childhood Victimization. Evaluators may look to childhood risk factors of each parent to assess their child abuse potential. The link between being abused in childhood and becoming a child abuser is not as strong as was once thought, with about 30% of child abuse victims becoming abusers (Kaufman & Zigler, 1987). Some evidence suggests that the link is stronger in men than in women (Miller & Challas, 1981).

Parents’ Psychological Characteristics. The parents’ personality traits and psychological disorders are generally poor predictors of child abuse (Wolfe, 1985). Neither parent is likely to have chronic mental disorders of genetic origin (e.g., schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder). Personality disorders are much more likely to appear on the psychological tests of both parents. Great care must be taken, however, when interpreting parents’ behaviors and psychological tests. Men who batter often have the types of personality disorders that keep childhood traumas, anxiety, and other problems hidden (Holtzworth-Munroe & Stuart, 1994).

To the extent that psychological disorders continue to be used to describe battered women, they can be placed at a serious disadvantage. Compared with the chronic problems of their partners, battered women’s psychological problems are much more likely to decrease as she becomes safer. Many battered women may seem very unstable, nervous, and angry (Crites & Coker, 1988). Other battered women may speak with a flat affect and appear indifferent to the violence they describe (Meier, 1993). These women probably suffer from the numbing symptoms of traumatic stress. The psychological test scores of some battered women may indicate severe personality disorders and mental illness. However, their behaviors and test scores must be interpreted in the context of the traumas they have faced or continue to face (Rosewater, 1987). The tactics used by their abusers parallel those used against prisoners of war and include threats of violence, forced isolation, degradation, and attempts to distort reality and increase psychological dependence. Severe depression and traumatic stress symptoms are the likely results. When women fear losing custody of children to an abusive partner, the stress can be overwhelming.

Interventions for the Abuser. Successful completion of treatment does not at all mean that the risks of child and woman abuse are eliminated. Although the evaluation of programs for men who batter is still in its infancy (Saunders, 1996), it is clear that a substantial proportion of women (35%, averaged across a number of studies) report that physical abuse by their partners occurs within 6-12 months after treatment. Psychological abuse is even more prevalent. Only two studies of programs for men who batter investigated the reduction of actual or potential violence toward the children (Myers, 1984; Stacey & Shupe, 1984). Both of these studies showed promising results, yet did not specifically focus on parenting issues. Only one description could be found of a special parent training program for men who batter (Mathews, 1995)

Recommendations for Custody and Visitation

Despite the dearth of sound research in this area, some tentative recommendations can be made from practice wisdom and the research that does exist. There is general agreement that joint custody has many advantages when a woman has good financial resources and an ex-partner who is nonabusive and supportive as a co-parent. However, the past and potential behavior of men who batter means that joint custody (or sole custody to him) is rarely the preferred option for these families. In addition to their propensity for violence, these men are likely to abuse alcohol (Tolman & Bennett, 1990) and communicate in a hostile, manipulative manner (Holtzworth-Munroe & Stuart, 1994).

As stated earlier, the model state statute of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges clearly states that there should be a presumption that it is detrimental to the child to be placed in sole or joint custody with a perpetrator of family violence (NCJFCJ, 1994). The model statute emphasizes that the safety and well-being of the child and the parent who is the victim must be primary. The perpetrator’s history of causing fear as well as physical harm should be considered. A parent’s absence or relocation in an attempt to escape violence by the other parent should not be used as a factor to determine custody. Courts sometimes label battered women as "impulsive" or "uncooperative" if they leave suddenly to find safety in another city or state. The model statute specifies that it is in the best interest of the child to reside with the non-violent parent and that this parent should be able to choose the location of the residence, even if it is in another state. The noncustodial parent may also be denied access to the child’s medical and educational records if such information could be used to locate the custodial parent.

Visitation guidelines should be based on the following gener
al principles: a) contact between child and parent should be structured in a way that limits the child’s exposure to parental conflict; b) transitions should be infrequent in cases of ongoing conflict and the reasonable fear of violence; and c) substantial amounts of time with both parents may not be advisable (Johnston, 1992). Ideally, a court order should detail the conditions of supervised visitation, including the role of the supervisor (NCJFCJ, 1995). Unsupervised visitation should be allowed only after the abuser completes a specialized program for men who batter and does not threaten or become violent for a substantial period of time. Practitioners need to be aware of the strong likelihood that men who batter will become violent in a new relationship and that they often use nonviolent tactics that can harm the children. Rather than rely on official records of recidivism, the best way to establish that the perpetrator is nonviolent is to interview current and past partners.

Visitation should be suspended if there are repeated violations of the terms of visitation, the child is severely distressed in response to visitation, or there are clear indications that the violent parent has threatened to harm or flee with the child. Even with unsupervised visitation, it is best to have telephone contact between parents only at scheduled times, to maintain restraining orders to keep the offender away from the victim, and to transfer the child in a neutral, safe place with the help of a third party (Johnston, 1992). Hart (1990) describes a number of safety planning strategies that can be taught to children in these situations.

The model statute (NCJFCJ, 1994) states that visitation should only be awarded to the perpetrator if adequate safety provisions for the child and adult victim can be made. Orders of visitation can specify, among other things: the exchange of the child in a protected setting, supervised visitation by a person or agency, completion by the perpetrator of "a program of intervention for perpetrators", and no overnight visitation. If the court allows a family or household member to supervise the visitation, the court can set the conditions to be followed during visitation. For example, an order might specify that the batterer not use alcohol prior to or during a visit and that the child be allowed to call the mother at any time.

Visitation centers are expanding across North America in response to the need for safe access and visitation (Straus, 1995). The approaches of these centers vary. For example, most of them provide some form of observational records of the visit, but the role of these programs in evaluating parents and reporting to courts differs. The experience of the visitation center in Duluth, Minnesota, shows the difficulty of keeping a neutral stance given the traditional biases in our social systems (McMahon & Pence, 1995). The Duluth center found that the traditional over-emphasis on parental rights and child welfare may block from view the harm of domestic violence to both battered women and their children.

In conclusion, although there is a need for further practice experience and research, our current knowledge of risk factors for continued abuse of women and children means that decision-makers must exercise great caution in awarding custody or visitation to perpetrators of domestic violence. If custody or visitation is granted, careful safety planning and conditions attached to the court order are important to help lower the risk of harm to the children and their mothers.

Author of this document:

Daniel G. Saunders, Ph.D.

University of Michigan

School of Social Work

August 1998

Distribution Rights: This Applied Research paper and In Brief may be reprinted in its entirety or excerpted with proper acknowledgement to the author(s) and VAWnet (, but may not be altered or sold for profit.

Suggested Citation: Saunders, D. (1998, August). Child Custody and Visitation Decisions in Domestic Violence Cases: Legal Trends, Research Findings and Reccomendations. Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved month/day/year, from:


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* The production and dissemination of this publication was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number U1V/CCU324010-02 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC, VAWnet, or the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

VAWnet is a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence in collaborative partnership with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center

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Access Denied: The Barriers of Violence and Poverty for Abused Women and their Children (Jaffe, Zerwer, Poisson)

Posted in domestic law by abatteredmother on February 26, 2010


Access Denied

The Barriers of Violence and Poverty for Abused Women and their Children’s Search for Justice and Community Services After Separation

Peter Jaffe, Michelle Zerwer & Samantha Poisson (2002)

Funded by the Atkinson Charitable Foundation. In this two-year study, 62 women were interviewed about their experiences in the legal system and their efforts to find legal and counselling services after separation from an abusive partner. Ninety-five of their children were interviewed as well. Focus groups were held with women involved with specialized domestic violence counselling. Although some women found assistancem others described a sense of re-victmization by legal, social service and mental health profesionals who lacked an understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence. To provide the reader with a broader context, each section of the report contrasts the myths and facts juxtaposed with study facts and recommendations.

Download the Full Report or a Summary

Access Denied: Summary

Access Denied: Full Report


The 15-page summary can be ordered for $15.00 plus shipping and handling. The full report is out of print. Print off a copy of the publication order form for more information.

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Man charged in wife's death returns to Durham

Posted in domestic law by abatteredmother on February 26, 2010


Raven, Janet and Kaiden Abaroa in an undated photo

Posted: Today at 9:56 a.m.
Updated: Today at 1:23 p.m.

DURHAM, N.C. — Authorities on Friday brought a former Durham resident charged with killing his wife almost five years ago back to town to face a murder charge in the case.

Raven Abaroa, 30, was taken into custody Monday, Feb. 1, 2010, in Montpelier, Idaho, for the 2005 death of his wife.

Raven Abaroa, 30, was arrested Feb. 1 at his home in Montpelier, Idaho. He is charged with first-degree murder in the April 2005 slaying of 25-year-old Janet Christiansen Abaroa.

He arrived at the Durham Police Department shortly after 1 p.m. and declined to comment as investigators led him inside.

Janet Abaroa was stabbed to death in an upstairs bedroom at her 2606 Ferrand Drive home. She was pregnant at the time, and the Abaroas’ then-6-month-old son, Kaiden, was in the home. He was unharmed.

Raven Abaroa has maintained his innocence in the case. In an October 2007 interview with NC Wanted, he said he was at a soccer game in Morrisville when she was killed. He found her when he returned home, he said.

Kaiden was placed in the custody of his paternal grandmother after his father’s arrest, authorities said.

Copyright 2010 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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