Child custody is a difficult and sensitive issue in many divorces, but it may be especially challenging if domestic violence was present during the marriage. Domestic abuse is a problem that plagues millions of families across the United States, including in Denver. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, over 10 million adults in America, men as well as women, are abused by their partners every year.
Emotional and verbal abuse may be just as devastating as physical violence. A common tactic of abusers is to exert control and power over their partners, points out The National Domestic Violence Hotline. One form of holding power over another is by using the children as pawns, and this tactic can be quite effective. An abusive spouse may tell the other that if he or she leaves, the abuser will take the children. This method often entraps victims into staying in the relationship out of fear of losing the children.
If a couple is going through a divorce, the abusive parent may file for sole custody of the children in an effort to “get back” at the other parent for the marriage ending. There are many things that may be done in this situation. The other parent may wish to seek assistance from domestic violence programs and counseling centers in the area.
Children should be reassured during a divorce that the situation was not their fault. It may also help to rehearse a safety plan tailored to their different ages to help them understand how to protect themselves against family abuse.