Skip to main content">Moms Fight Back">Moms Fight Back">Moms Fight Back


Fighting Against Awarding Child Custody to Abusers

The cases are too numerous to cite. Custody awards to abusive fathers. Good mothers who sought court protection for their children from their abusive parent where the preponderance of evidence was clear from confirmed hospital reports of injuries suffered from beatings and molestations only for the mothers to be deemed unfit to care for their children thereby placing the children back into the hands of their abusers.

A widely known 2012 study by Echo A. Rivera, from the Department of Psychology, Michigan State University documents:

“Family court custody arrangements determine physical and legal custody of children, visitation arrangements, and thus, abusers’ level of legal access to women and their children (Hardesty & Ganong, 2006; Kernic et al., 2005). The U.S. court system is obligated to determine custody based on what is in the “best interests of the children” (Dalton, Carbon, & Olesen, 2003; Hardesty & Chung, 2006; Jaffe et al., 2003). Although the definition of these interests varies by state, family court typically encourages joint custody because of the assumption that frequent and prolonged contact with both parents is always in the best interests of the children (Kelly, 2004). This assumption, however, is based on post-divorce impact studies that have failed to account for interparental conflict, leading several scholars to discredit this assumption (Jaffe et al., 2003; Salem & Dunford-Jackson, 2008; Zorza, 2007).”

Studies show that Family court leans heavily on court mediation in divorce child custody arrangements. But the efficacy of mediators in cases of intimate partner abuse, commonly known as IPA, is highly questionable. (Secondary Victimization of Abused Mothers by Family Court Mediators)

More studies add to the research in the consideration of abuse in custody recommendations, showing mediators favor joint custody or sole custody to fathers even with a proven domestic violence history. (Abused Mothers’ Safety Concerns and Court Mediators’ Custody Recommendations)

Still other research shows mediating cases where IPA is a known concern, which guide mediators’ behaviors to follow linear formulas of custody outcomes due to their lack of sufficient training and knowledge of IPA and fears of mediating domestic violence cases.

Which raises the question of courtroom reform to better handle cases that involve domestic and/or sexual abuse to child victims and protect women from being secondarily victimized in court. What policy and legislative changes can be made? Maralee McClean shared her efforts to protect and seek justice for her daughter from her ex-husband’s alleged sexual abuse in the book Prosecuted But Not Silenced.  Ms. McClean states in an interview article for  Child Law Practice , “The failure of various systems when child sexual abuse is reported and how these cases are turned against the protective parent in family court illustrates a Catch-22 situation. Mothers who report sexual abuse nearly always lose custody. Research shows children are placed in full or partial custody of their identified sexual abusers 90%of the time. Unfortunately, many judges, attorneys, and mental health professionals do not understand the overlap of domestic violence and child abuse.

One thing is consistent throughout the research: cases like these are not isolated. They are worldwide. Praise to the mothers who fought for their childrens’ right to be safe and protected and never gave up. Some endured financial hardships after court and attorney costs, others suffered stress-related health issues as they faced the many challenges in seeking justice for their children.

That’s because Moms Fight Back.


15 responses to “Fighting Against Awarding Child Custody to Abusers”

  1. Rodney Whitacre says:

    There is a case at the appellate level in Illinois where the entire system (judge, attorneys, GAL, appointed psychiatrist, DCFS) failed two girls and their mother. Currently, the girls were split. One with her mother, one with her father. The one with her father will undoubtedly sustain abuse as abuse was proven in several instances before and throughout the hearings. The story is unbelievable to most people until you see the evidence and listen to the testimony, two things the judge did not do. This mother and her daughters are now suffering as they wait for the appellate to do the right thing and hear the evidence. It has been a gross negligence by the judge and everyone else involved. The judge sited alienation on the mothers behalf despite no evidence to suggest alienation occurred and estrangement on the fathers behalf which was clear and convincing. The father stated that counseling with his daughters was “like talking to a brick wall” and “pointless”. The father has a history of abuse including his current wife whom he began dating when she was 15. He was 25 at the time. His eldest daughter alleged rape during the hearings and attempted suicide at the judges order to force her to have visitation with him. After everything is said and done, there will be a tremendous amount of healing that will need to take place and that will cost money. As the stepfather and the man who raised these two little girls I will have to afford this to them. What do we do to make these people pay for this crime that has been committed against our family? How do we get relief when every single person who was supposed to protect these girls failed them save the one person who was willing to fight for them, their mother? Our sons have suffered as a result of this court and this father. Our parents have suffered. We can’t get this time back. We can’t give them the childhood they were supposed to have. It is been physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually and financially devastating on several different levels. Do we have an avenue to seek justice and relief for this savagery dealt to our family?

  2. Helpless Mom says:

    This. Happened. To. Me. Thank you for fighting and making this issue known. Hearing officers, mediators, and judges need to be held accountable.

  3. Momof5 says:

    If 90% lose custody to the one who harmed their children why fight. Is it better to protect them by being there 100%?

  4. Seven says:

    Please contact me. I was a victim of losing my children to their abusive father. I am starting a camp where women can heal and learn skills to fight back after experiencing this. I would like to discuss more about it with you.

    • Christy Stephens says:

      In same situation. Its like living a nightmare. Their dad even used the kids cellbphones he bought them(even though they already had cell phones), as a means to try to get me for contempt of court because HE took them away and wanted the kids to use My PERSONAL phone to rwlk to their dad. Clearly a set up ordeal. They ralked to hum using the phines he gave them daily until he took them, so he could set me up!! That says nothing about rhe abuse that the kids and I were forced to love wirh for 25 years!! A real nightmare.

    • Nicole says:

      Where is this camp ?? I would love information. I need to find healing threw this.

    • Angela Freiner says:

      I would like to know more about this camp and if there is anything I can do to get involved?

  5. Mom says:

    So what the f-ck can we do? My child alleged her dad touched her so of course i had to report it. And now I’m deathly terrified she’s going to be taken from me. I don’t have the money to fight this patriarchal bullish-t! Few do! What the f-ck can we as mothers in this situation do!?

  6. Seven Villanueva says:

    This happened to me. I haven’t seen my children in 6 years. The hurt never stops. The worry never stops.

  7. Megan Hall says:

    I was physically, mentally, sexually abused and even recieved death threats from my exhusband but yet the opening statement in court was ” Its not about facts but what I believe”
    My exhusband contructed such lies and. Even justified raping me on I didnt give it up but one in 6 months. I had o money since he immediately removed me from our account and aided in my two oldest lids kidnapping.he refused contact with my youngest unless I gave her over to him and becaucw I didnt gave proper defence to defence juat hoe scared I was as a monther and women and he cpnstructed a way to lie to cps and have people also lie he used me as a scape goate. I was diagnosised in therapy i. Regards to the rape and abuse. I even had my 2 oldest in crisis therapy to address the abuse the kids reported. However even after. If I call my 3 year old she literally repeats directs comments her father stated in court. Which there is no way for her to know this. So I have not seen my kids since Feb. And there is not one juatice dept that care.

  8. Laura Smartt says:

    Tennessee enacted a new policy in 2016, prompted by dead beat dads who sought lower child support payments that “maximizes” both parents time with the child. The details can be found here:,need%20for%20stability%20and%20all
    My judge’s exact words when I described being raped were, It doesn’t matter how the child got here, simply that he will be here. I was a week away from delivery when he granted my rapist, harrasser, stalker majority custody of my unborn child. Since then, my child faced starvation and neglect, I have been sexually assaulted numerous times during exchanges; he attempted to extort sex in exchange for more parenting time and has failed to exercise his court ordered time each month. What is happening in legislation is criminal and destroying children’s lives. Please consider joining me to change legislation.

  9. Brynna L Ramirez says:

    Please contact me at 661-808-7573 I am a mother who has lost a child and he has been placed with the abuse. I had no idea I would lose custody for reporting it but I have a lot of documentation and the police department has really done some bad things to me and I believe there’s a way to get family court changed from the structure down. I think it’s my destiny. Sexual abuse destroys people and I can’t stomach more people being destroyed.

  10. I am going through the same thing. We should form a march and go to DC with our signs we need to be heard!

  11. We should form an alliance go to the white house and March. Like the ME TOO MOVEMENT! I am exhausted and quite frankly we need a voice!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *