wooden-judges-gavel - The Academy at Penguin Hall[September 16, 2020] Most people think that when a woman leaves her abusive husband with their children, the abuse stops and family court protects them. Prior to my involvement with family court during my abusive marriage, I thought the same thing. The truth almost killed me. 

In reality, by voicing my concerns about my child’s safety in their father’s care, unbeknownst to me, I gave away my right to protect my child. While I can only speak for my case, there are many, many women whom I have met who have experienced similar family court trauma. By refusing to negotiate on visitation time, despite my very real concerns and proven abuse, our child was placed into the custody of their father for 80% of the week. Even though we were awarded joint custody and placement, my abuser got the majority of the visitation time. 

This court order gave my abuser the leverage he needed to further abuse me and our child. It often came in the form of refusing to exchange our child at court-ordered times, failing to bathe or clean our child, or dressing them inappropriately either by size or weather.

However, the worst thing we endured was the emotional and psychological abuse. He lied to our child regarding who they could and could not love, as well as put words in my mouth to convince our child to believe I said things I never did. These psychologically abusive “messages” would come to light when our child would come home and share their most recent revelations from their father. These “messages” did not coincide with the thought pattern of our young child, or any child for that matter.

I expected this to raise red flags in family court, but no one cared. Not the lawyer, the GAL, the judge, the mediator...no one. How did I know our child was being abused? Because when I had to return them, they kicked, screamed, and tried to run away from their father. The once out-going, loving, and trusting child I had, has become angry, anxious, and insecure over these past few years. Family court’s unwillingness to consider domestic violence as a significant issue warranting protection of my child from their father, has changed the course of my child’s life in permanent ways that will affect them even into their adulthood.

Moving forward, it would do society at large justice to see more measures put in place to protect children and their mothers from court facilitated continued domestic violence. Mediation and other forms of communication that only exacerbate the dynamics of control should be done away with in cases involving domestic violence. Holding parents accountable to do what is truly in their child’s best interest, rather than treating the child like property, is what the family court system is supposed to do. There is oppression and injustice taking place affecting current and future generations. Understanding domestic violence - truly understanding its intricacies - would go a long way in changing the destruction that families are experiencing today.

We are withholding the name for safety issues. Many times survivors are afraid to speak about policy issues because they are afraid not only of the abusers but also of the systems they have to navigate.

Click here to view previous posts from Breaking the Silence.