Children are precious. They are vulnerable and sensitive. We need to act according to their best interests. Always.
What happens to children when one parent abuses the other and then the parents’ divorce? For simplicity I will use the male as the abuser, although females can also be abusive.
If a woman is being abused by her partner, is he looking out for her best interest? Of course the answer is no. What about the mother’s children? If she is being abused, are her children affected by the situation? Of course they are. They feel the effects of abuse in many different ways.
This leads me to think about when the couple separates/divorces and split custody is granted. The court system needs to look into what the best interests are for the children. Can the abusive parent act in the best interest of his children?
Abuse is all about control and manipulation. Whether it is verbal or physical abuse, the underlying issue is control of the partner. There are many ways an abuser can do this. Some examples are: putting her down and calling her names, isolating her, preventing her from working, controlling her social life, lying about the abuse, and physically harming her, just to name a few.
Will the abuser change and stop abusing because the couple is separated? Not likely. Often abuse escalates because the abuser is losing control over the situation. It may be portrayed in different ways, such as stalking and abuse through the court system.
So, therefore, should an abuser co-parent? Should he be able to make joint decisions with the mother relating to all aspects of the children? Is he capable of working with his ex-wife to make the best choices for his children?
Abusers have already shown by the fact that they abused in the first place that they are incapable of doing what is in the best interest of their children. Abusing their mother was not in their best interest. Parents need to put the needs of their children first and this is not done in abusive relationships.
Issues arise in co-parenting when one parent is abusive. Some examples are: manipulating the custody agreement or not following it, using children as pawns and not treating them as people, sabotaging the mother’s relationship with doctors, teachers, or other authority figures, withholding information received by doctors or teachers about children, not giving children normal access to their mother possibly in public or on the phone, and abusing and/or stalking the mother in front of the children. Another common issue is parental alienation by the abusive parent. He may talk negatively or make lies about the mother to the children, put her down, or tell the children she doesn’t love them. Anything to try to get the children to take his side.
The court system needs to recognize these issues and seriously consider what role of parenting each parent should have. Court systems often look at the father’s ‘rights’, not the children’s ‘needs’ which can create future emotional problems for the children. They need to do what is in the best interest of the children, not the abuser.
If you’re being abused or know someone who is, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help. 1-800-799-7233.
Remember, if we can help just one woman, we’ve done our job.