intimate partner violence, mothers received sole custody of children in 86.5% of cases. There were only 137 cases of substantiated IPV known to the court. Therefore, even without the factor of IPV, one would have expected that in 86.5%, or 119 of the 137 cases, the mothers would have received sole physical custody. This number is already so high even without the factor of IPV that there is no “upside room” left to demonstrate a statistically significant effect of IPV. This interpretation is buttressed by the fact that all the other negative outcomes for fathers, such as denial of visitation, restrictions on visitation, court mandated treatment, and restrictions on parental decision-making authority, which occurred in a small percentage of cases in the control group, all showed significant increases when IPV was present. The lone exception is the award of physical custody, and for reasons described above, this is most likely due to insufficient power of the study.
There is an additional reason why mothers claming to be victims of IPV did not appear to win custody more often than the 86.5% of control-group mothers. The authors identified 62 mothers whose case files contained an allegation of IPV, but for which no substantiation existed. This constituted 19% of the total IPV sample. The authors classified these cases as IPV positive. The court may have quite properly discounted the allegations because of the absence of substantiation, so that there would have been no reason for increased awards of custody to the mother. Likewise, the authors classified substantiated female-perpetrated IPV as male-perpetrated IPV if, in their judgment, the male had been the “primary aggressor.” They do not make clear how they made this determination. Again, it may have been perfectly reasonable for the court to have discounted these circumstances as a reason to give custody to the mother. The re-classification of unsubstantiated cases and female perpetrated cases would be an effective way to obtain the results the authors appear to have desired.
Finally, the results in the control group (those without a history of IPV) suggest what fathers’ advocates have long claimed – that mothers benefit from gender bias in the courts, such that they receive primary physical custody of children close to 90% of the time.
American Judges Association & Foundation’s Domestic Violence Committee. (2005). Domestic Violence & The Courtroom. Understanding The Problem…Knowing The Victim. Retrieved November 4, 2005 from http://aja.ncsc.dni.us/domviol/publications_domviobooklet.htm and subsequent pages
According to an email from Professor Joan Meier, “The American Judges Association report, ‘Domestic Violence and the Courtroom’ found that 70% of batterers and child abusers succeed in obtaining joint or sole custody.” This statement implies that an association of judges reached the stated conclusion. In fact, the document in question was written by Dr. Lenore Walker, (a domestic violence activist), an associate of hers, one judge, and a person from a marketing firm in the Manasquan, New Jersey. It was issued by the American Judges Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide educational material to judges.
The document is self-described as a “booklet.” Its purpose appears to be to alert judges to the problem of domestic violence and to offer them guidelines for dealing with the problem. It contains no original data or research, and none of its assertions are referenced. The booklet makes the statement, “Studies show that batterers have been able to convince authorities that