No Pennsylvania parent should ever have to be the victim of domestic violence. Unfortunately, statistics show that cases of this type of physical and emotional abuse are on the rise across the country. This can have a profound effect on children who are the subject of it or who witness it being inflicted on one of their parents by the other. Some studies have shown that it can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.
It can also have an effect on a child custody determination should the victim decide to seek a separation or a divorce from the abuser. However, it doesn’t always produce the result that people would expect. In many cases, the victim is so traumatized and fearful that he or she is not capable of giving proper care and emotional support to the child. Judges who are making child custody decisions are guided by what they believe to be in the best interests of the child. In many cases, victims who are unable to properly care for their children are denied custody.
It has also been found that abusers often use their children as so-called “bargaining chips” during divorce proceedings. A woman who has written several books on parenting has stated that, during the period of separation but before a custody order has been issued, children who are 3 years of age or younger should not be allowed to stay overnight with the parent who has not been the primary caregiver.
A parent who has been the victim of domestic violence may not know where to turn. Family law attorneys can often recommend local community resources and in some cases where necessary obtain protective orders on behalf of their clients who are seeking sole physical custody of their children and a divorce from their abusers.