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Do child custody courts unfairly protect woman in domestic situation where violence is alleged?

Parental fitness is not a case of one parent getting all the breaks. While it is true that in many, if not most, custody disputes the mother receives custody, this does not necessarily mean that the man is an unfit parent. In deciding custody, courts are guided by a gold standard: the best interests of the child. Judges exercise a great deal of discretion here, but no judge is going to be persuaded that an abusive man is a fit parent. Nor are judges persuaded by arguments that a man who assaults his wife is justified because "she was asking for it."


Courts used to assume that the victim was emotionally unstable, either as a result of the domestic violence or because she "just took it." Fortunately, courts realized that this is a "damned if you do, damned if you don’t" situation.


In most states today, statutes dealing with child custody recognize that domestic violence is probably not relevant to the victim’s parental fitness, while it is very relevant to the perpetrator’s parental fitness. Courts are now required to consider domestic violence as a factor in custody determinations. There may also be a presumption that the perpetrator of domestic violence should not receive child custody.