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Laws 2016, 5(1), 14; doi:10.3390/laws5010014

In the Best Interests of the Abuser: Coercive Control, Child Custody Proceedings and the “Expert” Assessments That Guide Judicial Determinations

School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith Institute of Criminology, Griffith University, Brisbane 4122, Australia
Academic Editor: Patricia Easteal
Received: 20 December 2015 / Revised: 6 March 2016 / Accepted: 7 March 2016 / Published: 10 March 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Justice Connections)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [235 KB, uploaded 10 March 2016]

Abstract

This paper outlines why domestic violence (or more specifically, coercive control) should be crucial to child custody proceedings. What is known about parenting in the context of coercively controlling violence, and what the legislation directs courts to consider, is juxtaposed with the actuality of court decision making. Current knowledge about the recognition of domestic violence in judicial practice is overviewed, drawing particular attention to the role of the “expert” family assessment in determinations of a child’s “best interests”. A comprehensive synopsis of the existing research on these “expert” reports in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States is provided. It is concluded that, in court proceedings the reality of living with coercively controlling violence and the potential on-going risks it poses to children and non-abusive parents, is typically negated. Instead, “best interests” considerations prioritise the maintenance of perpetrator/child relationships, and thus “abuser’s rights” over victim safety. Judicial officers are not experts in domestic violence and they can only make decisions on the basis of the evidence before them, the assessments made by the “experts” likely play an important role in best interest considerations. Of concern is current research that calls into serious question the expertise of these “experts” when it comes to proceedings involving allegations of coercively controlling violence. View Full-Text
Keywords: domestic violence; coercive control; family law; family reports; family courts; custody evaluations; expert evaluations domestic violence; coercive control; family law; family reports; family courts; custody evaluations; expert evaluations
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Jeffries, S. In the Best Interests of the Abuser: Coercive Control, Child Custody Proceedings and the “Expert” Assessments That Guide Judicial Determinations. Laws 2016, 5, 14.

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