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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.


33 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?

    • anonymous says:

      My kids have been taken from me for alleging abuse in the family courts. I live in MO and a recent article came out. People should google and share this article

      “31 Missouri Judges Recuse Themselves from Lawsuit Alleging Family Court Guardians and Psychologists Orchestrated Money-Making Scheme”

      • Maria says:

        I read your article and was inspired by your courage. I’m in central Missouri and the same thing happened to me. Guardian ad litem appointed therapists and Children Division caseworkers to find the Father unsubstantiated. Psychologist to testify Mother was mentally ill and cannot be treated. . $300,000 down the drain. Worse it my ex’s sister is Associate director of Great Circle and was previously a supervisor at CD. The GAL worked with the sister on juvenile cases. Attempted to disqualify the GAL after violating every standard….impossible. The GAL wouldn’t even speak to me.

        My situation is difficult because the juvenile court recused themselves after being caught working with Children’s Division caseworkers that we’re friends with my son’s aunt at Great Circle to ward custody of my son to the abuser in exchange for a job at Great Circle. I’d like to get a copy of your lawsuit as I’m suing the GAL, CD and the father. I lost custody with supervised visitation. The GAL stated I was litigious because I filed lawsuits and was an investigator by profession.

      • Felicia DAlessandro says:

        Please contact me.
        Felicia D’Alessandro Portland, victoria

  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.

      • Mel says:

        Where is this Camp? Awesome idea! The only way sometimes to healing is the support and understanding of others!Abusers love to isolate you and lie to your family friends act like your the problem when He is! Nature can be a great way to absorb new fresh energy while gaining more positive attitudes! Create new neural networks in your brain and let go of the hurt pain and develop new healthy habits of response to the hurt pain and stress. MAKE THE ABUSERS PAY FOR THIS CAMP OR RETREAT! IF THAT WAS DONE WE MIGHT SEE BETTER RESULTS HOLDING THEM ACCOUNTABLE!

        • Fuh-Q says:

          Sounds like you need to go to this camp. Girl you’re out here trying to play victim when you’re the issue like come on get it together drama queen. you harbor so much anger because you lost your kid because of the stupid shit you were doing. you deserve all the prison time you end up getting

    • Angela Freiner says:

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

    • Paila says:

      Please contact me! I do want to learn

  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.

    • Maria says:

      Hi- if you need to talk me about your situation for suppport and ideas. Please let me know. I went through the same situation. Lost my son to his abuser. It’s very difficult some days. I reported abuse, my son did to law enforcement and forensic interviews, even been arrested. The system is very difficult to understand. It’s not about evidence but therapist who know guardian ad litems, my son’s Father spent $87,000 on a psychologist to find me permanently mentally ill and no matter what my sons says for the rest of his life, he’s been coached. It’s wasn’t worth reporting the abuse….

  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!

  12. Sarai says:


  13. Anonymous says:

    Love this excerpt for the part about only having props to the moms who “never give up”. I’ve seen far too many women homeless and or 5 and 6 figures in debt battling in the (un)family court that have little to no parenting time with their child after being a primary caregiver. Violent males are a “protected class” unfortunately. Giving up is the BEST thing to do for your sanity in MANY cases until public policy radically changes. On planes they tell you to put on your oxygen mask before you put your child’s on. Many children that have been through PA and “woke up out of the fog” have stated that fighting for an aleinated child to be in your life makes the problem worse most of the time.


    It’s a rigged system. My ex is a cocaine addict that manufactured ghost guns to sell to domestic abusers so that they could still have guns. He said he’d never pay child support and now has a girlfriend he is buying plastic surgery for. Because I reported him and no one looked into it, I have been labeled not diagnosed with “paranoid delusions.” My kid is so scared what happened to me will happen to her that she says she forces herself to only think what my ex tells her too or she can’t get through the day. That means when he kisses his girlfriend that he denies being in a relationship with in front of her, he will tell her she has isn’t seeing things that are really there even though she definitely has never had any sign of mental illness and his girlfriend has been posting pictures of their vacations they take with the money he drained from me on her Instagram for over a year before we separated. I had a lawyer tell me that in court I have to agree with my ex or I will be “seen as the problem and the problem gets removed.” I said that I’d happily co parent if my ex wasn’t gaslighting, pointing loaded guns at our child or doing cocaine. Apparently I’m the crazy one for expecting that and now will probably lose custody of my kid to that monster because for this whole process he is now a “good Christian man.” No one looks into anything and they only take his word. I think it proves women don’t really have rights, we are breeding stock for men. That’s why all of the complaints on her are of people being genuinely shocked by the process. We were never going to win, we are not humans we are cattle. Our bodies are not ours they are what the men say they are to them. I wish I had answers but we are damned by the process. The only option is to wait until your kid is old enough, to contact you on their own. By then they will be so screwed up by the person you tried to protect them from it’s like losing a child and adopting a stranger. I’m seriously considering giving up my US citizenship, obviously not for custody because in another country it’s as many as five years to get a hearing for custody at all, but I dont know if I can be affiliated with a country that does this to mothers. I literally can’t look at this place as my home anymore. I was a good person who had my child taken from me and molded into what her dad told her to be and she complies so much that she is being erased as a person completely. This is not my home anymore it is my prison.

  15. anonymous says:

    My kids have been taken from me for alleging abuse in the family courts. I live in MO and a recent article came out. People should google and share this article

    Missouri Judges Recuse Themselves from Lawsuit Alleging Family Court Guardians and Psychologists Orchestrated Money-Making Scheme

  16. Paila says:

    Just lost custody of my son 6yrs old. Single mother never married. My son is been always with me. Father sued me for custody 4 years ago. I had all the legal rights. He always keep looking ways to take me to court. Child therapist reported so many times to cps for father’s physical abuse. Ended to be my fault all the time for those cps entries. Amicus attorney labeled me as emotional abuser. Today she & judge ordered to remove my child & enter to foster system. Just because child was physical abuse by father. Father has been doing that to me. He is facing charges for assault to me. But in family court all is my fault. Because I don’t have family here. My child is so easy to enter to foster system to the families Pre approved by the amicus attorney organization. All is a scam!!!
    Fort Worth Texas

  17. Mandy (7708658552) says:

    I lost custody to my abuser I’m in Georgia if anyone wants to talk

  18. Chelsea says:

    I lost custody for reporting hold abuse when my child was 2.5 years old. My daughter had black eyes, bruises all over her bottom, wouldn’t let go of me when she even saw my ex or his girlfriend’s cars, etc. I had 6 hours once a week SUPERVISED visits and the supervisor reported suspicion of child abuse and kept emailing the social worker saying someone needs to investigate what’s going on in their home. Judge told me if I ever reported abuse again, I’d never see her again and wasn’t allowed to take pictures of her and us anymore. And the judge said since it’s so hard for her to leave me, we were decreasing visits to three hours once a week SUPERVISED! CPS and the judge covered this abuse and made me out to be a liar. My daughter is now 13 and cutting, dad was ordered to put her in therapy 8 years ago but still refuses, started homeschooling her after teacher became suspicious of so many absences, daughter texting her friend asked when will someone save me, said she is mentally unstable, said she is breaking and no one gives a shi*, said that I didn’t go to court to help her so she’s never trusted anyone since, went into detail of the abuse from dads girlfriend and more.

    WHAT DO I DO?! I’m afraid of getting punished again and not being able to be her safe home anymore but can’t let this continue. It’s been ten years.

    How do I sue these people who’ve let her down and punished me and in turn punished her?? And how do I sue dad for protecting girlfriend and making me seem crazy and missing out on many years because of it and allowing our child to be abused like this for TEN YEARS?!

    Someone help please. Even someone just to talk to. Can we start a Facebook group or even a group chat?

  19. Me says:

    My ex boyfriend abused me for over a decade , lies in court, lives to hurt me. His own son rejected him, so he went for my other child who had no father, and got presumed status!! Then my 4 year old is telling me he is being molested. The courts punished ME! This area is highly corrupt, orchestrated crimes within the court, counselors, lawyers, appellate lawyer, social workers, judges. Is there money making schemes here? help us. Somebody somewhere help us.
    This website name is Great: “Moms fight back”
    How can I realistically fight back? My new hashtag is #there are no heroes

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