How does domestic violence affect children & does it affect child custody?
Yes, domestic violence affects child custody, and domestic violence seriously affects children. There’s been a lot of psychological research into this. All of the experts agree that it’s seriously damaging to children, it makes them not feel safe, and it makes them potentially have PTSD depending on how extreme the domestic violence is or even depending on what kind of a child it is. Some children can roll with the punches more with yelling, screaming and fighting, and other children don’t.
But in Oregon, one of the factors that a judge is required to look at when determining which parent is going to get custody is domestic violence, and it’s recently in the last few years we’ve taken a more serious look at this because it seems to be that many of the custody study evaluators have not taken domestic violence seriously, have sort of brushed it under the table. We’re really asking them to go back and take it seriously, meaning that the person that has committed the domestic violence, if it is determined that it truly happened, that the person really should not be getting custody even if they are now suddenly the better parent.
Oftentimes you’ll go to a trial, let’s say on a restraining order, and one person is looking dishevelled and confused – doesn’t know what’s going on, crying, looks like a mess and a wreck – and the other person looks put together, very confident, knows exactly what to say, sounds very convincing. Typically the latter is the abuser and the former is the abused person.
That’s what domestic violence does, and attorneys need to be very careful on how they handle this and they do need to take it seriously, but they also, on the other hand, have to make sure that it’s not used as a weapon in a divorce case to obtain an advantage. Good attorneys are going to be very careful around this very sensitive area of domestic violence.
Laura Schantz is a family law attorney and mediator practicing in Beaverton, Oregon. To learn more about Laura Schantz and her firm, Schantz Law P.C., visit www.oregondivorceattorney.com.