Domestic violence is about power and control. The children of domestic violence victims are often caught in the middle.
That makes it important to understand the links between domestic violence and child custody. Following are some crucial ones:
1. Your abuser may treat the children like pawns.
It may be almost impossible for you to understand how your co-parent can behave that way, but it's a sad reality. Abusers often use children to manipulate their victims. By anticipating such actions, you can often take the power.
2. Your children may still be deeply attached to your abuser.
Even if your children have witnessed domestic violence or been abused themselves, psychologists say it isn't unusual for them to have a strong sense of attachment to their abuser. Some of that attachment is normal. After all, the abuser is still their parent. Part of it, however, may be a psychological response known as Stockholm syndrome.
3. Even witnessing familial violence has a negative effect on children.
Some people mistakenly believe that children who aren't directly abused can easily recover from familial violence. In reality, children who witness one parent abusing another are highly prone to depression, anxiety, alcoholism and other conditions that are related to stress. They often have the same emotional and behavioral problems as children who have been physically abused themselves.
4. Your own emotional issues can reflect poorly on you in court.
Abusers are great manipulators. They can present themselves as victims to the court and portray the real victims as mentally ill, depressed and unfit to parent. An attorney can help you defeat such attempts in court, but you never want to assume that custody of the children will automatically be yours because you're the victim of abuse.
You and your children will need a good therapist to help you see the manipulation for what it is and cope with the emotional fallout. Therapy can also help you deal with the anxiety of the custody battle that's likely to come and to be at your best in court.