A few years ago, my acquaintance, “Sally” (not her real name) left an abusive relationship. She had two young children with her partner. Since he was the breadwinner in the family, Sally was worried she might have trouble getting custody of her children, since he would argue that he was in a financially better position to take care of the children.
Nevertheless, Sally won her case in Family Court. She made a compelling argument that she was the better parent.
Sally’s case isn’t unique. Between 3 to 4 million children are exposed to domestic violence each year. Unfortunately, sometimes the abusers get custody during a divorce.
Are you in a similar relationship with an abusive spouse? You don’t need to feel hopeless. You can have a good chance of winning your custody case if you take the right steps.
Here are some ways to get custody of your children to protect them from your abuser.
Prepare for False Allegations of Abuse
Dealing with false allegations of abuse is one of your top priorities. Unfortunately, you may not even realize that you need to, because you believe only the truth will come out at trial.
The sad reality is that narcissists don’t limit their abuse to physical actions or mean words behind closed doors. In fact, 21% of men lie in custody cases. They can also tell horrible lies in court to cause distress. If they know that taking your children away is going to cause more pain, they will be willing to lie to do it.
Make sure that you know what lies they are likely to tell and have a defense ready. If you can dispute them in court, your chances of winning increase dramatically.
Make sure Abuse is documented throughout the relationship
Allegations of abuse are not uncommon during divorce proceedings, especially if child custody is an issue. Judges will be skeptical without any corroboration.
Fortunately, there should be plenty of ways to document it. Here are some ways:
- The best place to start is by releasing police and hospital records. This is the most objective form of evidence that a physical abuse has occurred. Other forms of abuse may not be so easy to prove, but they usually occur simultaneously with physical abuse.
- Get statements from neighbors that have heard disturbances at your home.
- Have friends that have seen signs of abuse make statements.
- Show photos that you took on social media that have bruises or other marks.
- Consider getting a testimonial from your counselor if you’re willing to waive privilege. However, this is usually a last resort, because you may open them up to cross examination if privilege is revoked.
Getting any evidence you can find to prove abuse has occurred is the most important step.
Show the emotional problems the abuse has caused to your children
Many people, including abuse victims believe that the impact of abuse on children will end after they are separated from the abuser. This is unfortunately not true. The impact of abuse runs deep. Even if the abuser restricted their physical or emotional violence to the other parent, the child will feel trauma for quite some time.
It is imperative that you bring your child to a counselor to assess the problems the abuse has caused them. This is important not just for winning custody, but also to make sure they have a decent treatment plan in place. The judge may require some form of restitution on the part of the abuser, including fees for counseling beyond the cost of child support.
Find unbiased people to testify if possible
Having witnesses that can help document the devastation is important. However, the objectivity of those witnesses is also important. Try to find witnesses that aren’t only your friends. People that are mutual friends of your abuser or have a very limited relationship to either of you will help. If you can find people close to the abuser, such as their own family that are willing to testify on your side, then that will be even better.