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Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCLA Journal of Gender and Law

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How Domestic Violence Batterers Use Custody Proceedings in Family Courts to Abuse Victims, and How Courts Can Put a Stop to It


When a victim leaves her battering spouse and seeks to end the marriage, the batterer often does not willingly relinquish control over her. Instead, he takes advantage of the divorce and custody process as an avenue to continue his abuse.

The batterer’s use of coercion during the custody process can take many forms. It can include demanding custody simply for the sake of staying involved in the victim’s life; forcing the victim to return to court dozens of times to prolong contact; using court-mandated visitation or custody as an opportunity to commit physical violence against the victim; intimidating the victim into conceding joint custody during coercive mediation sessions; and refusing to pay child support to force the victim back into court.

At present, most family courts are unprepared to address batterers’ attempts to use the court and the legal system as a tool of abuse. This paper will focus on the ways in which batterers take advantage of custody proceedings in family court to continue to abuse their victims. The paper will also offer recommendations for how family courts can stop batterers from manipulating the courts as a site of abuse.

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