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29 Clearinghouse Rev. 1113 (1995-1996)
Protecting the Children in Custody: Disputes When One Parent Abuses the Other

handle is hein.journals/clear29 and id is 1149 raw text is: Protecting the Children in Custody:
Disputes When One Parent Abuses
the Other
by Joan Zorza

I. Introduction
Domestic violence hurts children, both
physically and emotionally. And the vio-
lence may not end even after the parties
separate; indeed, separation may actual-
ly provide fathers with more opportuni-
ties to hurt their children. It is a myth
that women most often win contested
custody disputes; in fact, fathers who
fight win either sole or joint custody a
majority of the time. And, in part due to
bias in the law and the courts, abusive
fathers win custody disputes at least as
often as nonabusive fathers. This article
discusses these issues and suggests
ways to protect mothers and their chil-
dren better from abusive fathers in cus-
tody disputes.1

II. Spousal Violence: Men Abusing
Spousal violence is overwhelmingly
caused by men who batter and abuse
their current and former female part-
ners. Women are overwhelmingly the
partners that are psychologically terror-
ized and physically injured by this
abuse.2 The men who batter and psy-
chologically terrorize their wives and
intimate partners do so to dominate,
control, and punish them. In contrast,
when women use seemingly abusive
tactics against their partners, they are
almost always trying to escape or de-
fend themselves and their children, and
their male partners seldom experience
psychological terror.3

This article is based on the author's written testimony before the U.S. Commission on
Child and Family Welfare in April 1995.
2 Russell P. Dobash et al., The Mytb of Sexual Symmetry in Marital Violence, 39 Soc. PROBS.
71, 74-75 (1992), noting that women constitute well over 90 percent of all spousal assault
victims; Tina Busey, Women Defendants and Reactive Survival Syndrome, 1 CATALYST 6
(Winter 1993), noting that over 95 percent of women referred into batterer treatment pro-
grams by the criminal justice system are either self-defending victims or were wrongfully
accused by their abusive husbands. Although abuse can occur in same-sex couples or,
rarely, by women against their male partners, this is not to imply that abuse perpetrated
by females is not less harmful or is justified.
3 Dobash et al., supra note 2; Mildred Daley Pagelow, Adult Victims of Domestic Violence,
7 J. INTERPERSONAL VIOLENCE 109 (1992); L. Kevin Hamberger et al., The Intended Function
of Domestic Violence Is Different for Arrested Male and Female Perpetrators, FAM.
VIOLENCE & SExuAL ASSAULT BULL., Nos. 3-4 1994, at 40-44; Daniel G. Saunders, Wife
Abuse, Husband Abuse or Mutual Combat, in FEMINIST PERSPECTIVES ON WIFE ABUSE 90-113
(Kersti Yllb & Michele Bograd eds., 1988).

Joan Zorza, the editor of
Domestic Violence
Report, is a liaison to the
American Bar Association
Commission on Domestic
Violence and a consultant
to the American Medical
Association and National
Council of Juvenile and
Family Court Judges;
(212) 888-6647; E-mail at
jzorza @panix.com.



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