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Family Law

Myths about family violence and child custody

By October 20, 2016No Comments

By Gianna Huesch

In today’s article, we look at ‘family violence’.

Family violence can range from very subtle to very obvious actions. If a member of your family is using controlling, threatening, intimidating, or violent behaviour directly towards you or anyone in your household, this may count as “family violence” and you should seek advice and support.

Below, we tackle some of the myths about family violence and child custody that highlight the need for survivors of family violence to engage the services of trained professionals (psychologists and legal professionals specialising in family violence) to help plan a safer future and lessen the damage done to their kids.

Myth: If a child doesn’t demonstrate fear of a parent, there is no reason not to grant unsupervised contact or custody to that parent.

Truth:  Children can maintain strong ties to an abusive parent as a survival technique in a type of “traumatic bonding”; Abuse survivors, including kids, can sometimes become incapable of viewing their abuser as the hostile aggressor they actually are. Studies have demonstrated that some children attempt to appease a parent, and meet the parents needs at expense of their own. These situations sometimes require very experienced family consultants, psychologists or psychiatrists to pick up signals.

Myth: Children are less in danger from an abusive parent once the parents separate.

Truth:  Studies have found that family violence, including abuse of children, can actually increase after separation. This is because the abuser’s motivation to use the children as a method of intimidating and controlling their victim (the other parent) increases after separation. For abusers, separation means losing a sense of power and control, which they try to regain using sometimes the only “tool” they still have—their shared children.

Myth: Non-abusive parents won’t lose custody of their kids

Truth:  One of the most perverse elements of family violence is that the psychological effect on victims can see them present worse in court than their abuser does, with disastrous consequences for their case as their parenting capacity may be called into question.

When domestic violence victims present at the Family Court, they are already at a significant disadvantage. Leaving an abusive relationship can be like escaping from captivity – victims emerge disoriented and afraid, and have often been reduced to a state of helplessness. Recalling details of abuse – even years later – can trigger post-traumatic stress, and render them anxious and emotional. Tragically, this can undermine their credibility as witnesses. (Source: https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2015/november/1446296400/jess-hill/suffer-children)

It is even more important in such cases to consider bringing in experts to prepare reports for the courts, to explain an abuse survivor’s presentation and put certain conduct into perspective.

Myth: The negative effects of kids witnessing domestic violence will disappear quickly once they are apart from the abusive parent

Truth: Children who grow up witnessing, even if not directly experiencing, family violence can show comparable levels of behavioural and emotional issues to children who were in fact directly physically or sexually abused. Further, kids who come from homes where violence was present are more at risk as adults for health problems such as obesity, depression, heart disease and alcoholism.

If your children have witnessed or experienced family violence, therefore, accessing counselling or other therapy for your kids (as well as for yourself) is vital.

Read about some of the effects on kids and some ways you can lessen the impact here: http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/reports-and-publications/publications/family+violence/exposure-to-family-violence-and-its-effect-on-children

If you are in a situation involving family violence, Alliance Family Law can assist you once you have chosen to take a legal course of action, whether this involves separation, divorce, custody arrangements for your children, or property settlements; as well as supporting you with any related criminal law or other legal matters through our network of referral companies. Please contact Cristina Huesch or one of our experienced solicitors on (02) 6223 2400 for a free first conference.

Some useful websites where you can seek advice and support:

Domestic Violence Crisis Service

Domestic Violence Crisis Services

Department of Human Services:

Human Services

1800RESPECT (24×7)

1800RESPECT (24×7)

Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria

Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria

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