Missouri Family Court

  

From the Journal of The Missouri Bar:

JOURNAL OF THE MISSOURI BAR
Volume 57 – No. 6 – November-December 2001

Custody Child in Cases Involving Domestic Violence: Is It Really in the “Best Interests” of Children to Have Unrestricted Contact With Their Mother’s Abusers

by Molly A. Brown1

I. Introduction

The topic of child custody in cases involving domestic violence is important because witnessing abuse has a traumatic psychological impact on children.2 Today, “[i]n virtually all states, child custody decisions require . . . a determination of a custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child.”3 Some states, including Missouri, require the court to consider “a parent’s abilities to allow an open, loving and frequent relationship between the child and the other parent” as a factor in determining the best interests of the child.4 This article will give a brief history of both national and Missouri law concerning domestic violence and child custody, changes that have occurred in this area of law, and the current status of the law in this area. Part II will specifically examine Missouri statutory and case law regarding domestic violence and custody determinations. Part III will focus on analysis of Missouri statutory law, including its “friendly parent provision,” and its application to custody decisions and visitation arrangements. Part III will also analyze why current statutory law in Missouri is inadequate and why the Missouri General Assembly should enact a statutory presumption that in child custody cases involving domestic violence it is not in the best interest of children to have extended or unsupervised contact with the abuser. II. Background The best interest of the child standard emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, setting aside the tender years doctrine that had favored the mother as the preferred custodial parent of young children.5 Today, the best interest of the child is the standard applied in child custody decisions in virtually all states.6 Most best interest of the child statutes also list factors the court [may] consider in making its custody decision.”7 Theoretically, “parental behavior that is unknown to the child or committed outside of the child’s presence is . . . irrelevant . . . [b]ecause the focus under the best interest of the child standard is on how parental actions affect the child.”8 However, parental violence has not always been excluded as a factor in child custody decisions.9 Before about 1970, custody decisions “focused on the morality of parental conduct.”10 Courts frequently “used ‘cruelty’ as a basis for . . . child custody awards,” granting custody to the victim.11 The focus of family law shifted in the 1970s “from economic protection of the dependent spouse to equitable distribution of property” when fault was removed from divorce codes.12 “[S]tate legislatures amended custody codes to encourage joint custody and participation by fathers in parenting children” during this period.13 Currently, some “states have interpreted the [best interest] standard as a presumption for awarding [joint] custody.”14 “These statutes are generally based on the premise that the child benefits from maintaining contact with both parents after a divorce, and that the parents should share the responsibilities of child care.”15 Reminiscent of the fault doctrine used before 1970, some state courts and legislatures have begun to consider domestic violence in child custody decisions again.16 However, these new decisions and statutes “are different because they do not focus on the morality of parental fault,” but rather on the best interest of the child standard.17 These new statutes are still inadequate because they fail to consider the detrimental impact of witnessing domestic violence. Specifically, these statutes tend to require proof that parental violence has a direct impact on the child, which significantly limits the ways domestic violence can be considered in determining what is in the best interest of the child.18 Currently, 35 states require “that [the] courts consider domestic violence when determining the best interest of a child.”19 Two other states authorize the courts to consider the existence of domestic violence as a factor in determining what is in the best interest of the child, but do not require the courts to do so.20 The Model Code on Domestic and Family Violence elevates the safety and well-being of the child and the abused parent above all other best interest factors when a finding of abuse by one parent or the other is made.21 Furthermore, 11 state statutes mandate that “a court either consider domestic violence as contrary to the best interest of a child . . . or expressly prohibit an award of joint custody when a court makes a finding of the existence of domestic violence.”22 Eight states have custody codes that “establish rebuttable presumptions related to domestic violence.”23 Four create “rebuttable presumptions against the award of sole or joint custody of children to perpetrators of domestic violence.24 The codes in the other four states incorporate presumptions related to joint custody by providing a rebuttable presumption against joint custody if a court determines that a parent is a perpetrator of domestic violence.”25 Furthermore, three states have statutes that “articulate a presumption against unsupervised visitation when a court finds that the noncustodial parent has perpetrated domestic violence.”26 Two of these states have statutes that “include an additional presumption that a child not reside with a perpetrator of domestic violence.”27 However, “most codes require a showing of ongoing or serious violence before the presumption is activated.”28 III. Missouri Statutes Missouri statute provides that “[t]he court shall determine custody in accordance with the best interests of the child.”29 One of the factors that the court shall consider in making this determination is:

The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved. If the court finds that a pattern of domestic violence has occurred, and, if the court also finds that awarding custody to the abusive parent is in the best interest of the child, then the court shall enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law. Custody and visitation rights are ordered in a manner that best protects the child and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm.30  

Missouri has one of 10 state child custody statutes that includes a friendly parent provision, “a public policy statement concerning a parent’s abilities to allow an open, loving, and frequent relationship between the child and the other parent.”31 Missouri is also one of “[e]ighteen states that include[s] such provisions in their list of factors that a court is required to consider when determining the best interest of the child.”32 Missouri articulates its friendly parent provision as follows:

The general assembly finds and declares that it is the public policy of this state that frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage is in the best interest of the child, except for cases where the court specifically finds that such contact is not in the best interest of the child, and that it is the public policy of this state to encourage parents to participate in decisions affecting the health, education and welfare of their children, and to resolve disputes involving their children amicably through alternative dispute resolution. In order to effectuate these policies, the court shall determine the custody arrangement which will best assure both parents participate in such decisions and have frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with their children so long as it is in the best interests of the child.33  

Missouri’s legislature also has enacted a statutory provision that entitles a noncustodial parent “to reasonable visitation rights unless the court finds, after a hearing, that visitation would endanger the child’s physical health or impair his [or her] emotional development.”34 “The court [must] consider the parent’s history of inflicting, or tendency to inflict, physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault on other persons and shall grant visitation in a manner that best protects the child and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm.”35 The statute also states that “[t]he court, if requested by a party, shall make specific findings of fact to show that the visitation arrangements made by the court best protect the child or the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm.”36 The following cases illustrate how Missouri courts have interpreted these statutes regarding child custody in cases involving domestic violence. The Missouri Court of Appeals held in Gant v. Gant that the trial court could award primary residential child custody to the husband, even though it found that he had committed acts of domestic violence.37 The wife claimed that her husband had a violent nature, and cited numerous acts of violence.38 The wife stated that during the course of the marriage her husband had smashed many household items with a baseball bat, a chair, and a box cutter.39 She testified that her husband had grabbed her by the arm or hit her during arguments.40 The wife also testified that on one occasion her husband “ripped her pajamas when he grabbed her by the arm” and then “poked her in the eye,” breaking a blood vessel.41 She claimed that her husband had “grabbed her by the face and pushed her over the arm of a couch while she was holding her six-month-old baby.”42 She also testified that her husband had threatened to kill her 10 to 12 times during the marriage, and that he “raped her a number of times during the marriage.”43 Even though the trial court found that domestic violence had occurred, it awarded primary physical custody of the children to the husband.44 The court noted that these acts “were not recent and were not directed at the children,” and that the wife had moved out of the state and without a car would have less ability to bring the children to the husband for visitation.45 On appeal, the wife argued “that in cases where domestic violence is proven, a legal presumption arises that custody of minor children should be with the non-violent parent, unless other evidence is introduced to overcome the presumption.”46 The appellate court noted no authority for the wife’s argument, and stated the need that “a reasonable decision [be made] in light of all the relevant factors, giving substantial weight to domestic violence.”47 The court upheld the lower court’s judgment.48 In Couch v. Couch, the appellate court found that neither a finding by the trial court that domestic violence had occurred by the husband against the wife nor the wife’s allegation that the husband had “an alcohol problem and [a] propensity toward violence” established a pattern of domestic violence sufficient to require the trial court to enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law when awarding custody of the minor child to the husband.49 In that case, the wife and husband separated following a fight during which the wife was pushed and suffered a broken collarbone.50 Shortly thereafter, the husband filed a petition for dissolution of marriage.51 The trial court granted primary physical custody of the couple’s child to the husband.52 The appellate court upheld the trial court’s judgment, stating that the wife had failed to establish the requisite pattern of domestic violence and that the trial court did not err in making its custody award.53 The appellate court cited Hamilton v. Hamilton, in which the court held that two incidents in which the husband assaulted his wife did not constitute a “pattern of domestic violence” that would require the court to enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law in order to award joint custody of the parties’ child to the husband.54 The Hamilton court stated that the wife “did not claim that those two incidents represented a pattern. Although she did aver a pattern of alcohol abuse.”55 The appellate court in Hennessey v. Smith-Hennessey remanded the case back to the trial court after the trial court had awarded custody of the parties’ minor child to the husband, even though significant evidence demonstrated that domestic violence had occurred during the parties’ marriage.56 “The wife had testified [during trial] as to three specific incidents of domestic violence against her, . . . one episode in which [the husband] ‘chased her down with the car’ and then ‘manhandled’ her and ripped her dress while she was pregnant.”57 “The husband’s stepmother testified that she once observed bruises on the wife’s arm, and that their house appeared to be disturbed as a result of a physical fight.”58 Additionally, “the husband admitted that he ‘pulled his wife by the arm and held her against the wall.'”59 Furthermore, “[t]he child’s counselor testified that [the child] told her that ‘Dad picked Mom up by the throat’ one time, and that he had [also taken the child] ‘by the jaw one time and shoved her into the wall.'”60 Even with all of this evidence of abuse presented, the trial court still awarded custody of the minor child to the father.61 The appellate court held that this evidence was sufficient to require remand for a finding as to whether such violence occurred and for specific findings as to the best interest of the child for purpose of custody determination.62 These cases clearly indicate that current Missouri law is not adequate to protect victims of domestic violence. Abusers use custody to keep victims in abusive relationships. The statutes give the courts the authority to award custody to the abusive parent by not allowing them to give sufficient weight to evidence of domestic violence in making its custody decision. IV. Analysis A. Neither Primary Nor Joint Custody Should Be Awarded to the Abuser in Cases Involving Domestic Violence Inclusion of domestic violence as just one factor to be considered in custody decisions is not adequate to protect victims of domestic violence.

Domestic violence reveals information about parenting skills. It shows that at least one parent has taken actions which are diametrically opposed to the best interest of the child. Instead of segregating abuse from custody, there must be systematic recognition that violence is bad for the family. A narrow focus on actions that directly affect the child prevents courts from considering abuse between parents unless it is directed at a child. Because domestic violence has identifiable and deleterious effects on children, there must be a shift in the custodial standard to include this aspect of the parents’ relationship.63  

Courts can give as much or as little consideration to each factor as they wish, and no one factor outweighs the other.64 “In the vast majority of cases, domestic violence is either deemed irrelevant to custody decisions or is not taken seriously.”65 “[M]andating consideration of domestic violence [as merely one of numerous factors] does not guarantee understanding its impact” on the victim and on the children.66 Studies have shown that merely witnessing domestic violence has both severe short-term and long-term effects on children.67 Children who witness domestic violence learn to become part of a dishonest conspiracy of silence, . . . to lie to prevent inappropriate behavior, and . . . to suspend fulfillment of their needs rather than risk another confrontation.”68 “Socially, children who witness domestic violence tend to choose either passive or aggressive behavior to resolve interpersonal conflicts. They exhibit shyness, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion as a result of their experiences.”69 One study of “children of battering relationships who had witnessed violence but who had not themselves been subject to abuse . . . found that [these] children . . . showed [increased] aggression, exhibited impaired cognitive and motor abilities, and were delayed in verbal development.”70 “Other studies further confirm [these] . . . negative behavioral and emotional effects on children who witness” domestic violence.71 Studies have shown that “[b]asic needs of attachment for infants to their mother may be significantly disrupted” as a result of domestic violence.72 “School age children [who have witnessed domestic violence] exhibit poor school performance, erratic attendance, distractibility, and school phobia.”73 Furthermore, evidence shows that children who witness abuse will grow up to be adult batterers themselves, perpetuating the cycle of domestic violence.74 Experts theorize that the cycle perpetuates itself because “[a]ll other input [that these children receive is] processed through the [model] of the first marriage they ever saw and their [first] role models of husband and wife.”75 Additionally, “[a] significant percentage of battered women have” witnessed violence themselves in their childhood or were physically and/or sexually abused themselves.76 Some experts believe that these women come to believe at a young age that this pattern of victimization is inevitable.77 Children of abusive fathers are likely to be physically abused themselves.

One study found that child abuse was present in seventy percent of the families in which there was spouse abuse. The same study reported that the more severe the spouse abuse, the more severe the child abuse. In another study, researchers found that children of mothers who had been battered were twice as likely to be abused themselves than were children of mothers who had not been battered.78  

Joint custody is not an ideal situation in cases with a history of domestic violence.

Joint custody is a dangerous arrangement when there has been abuse. Successful joint custody requires continuing contact between the parents. A battered woman generally wants the abuser to stay away, but joint custody precludes separation because the parents must transfer children back and forth and participate jointly in decision making. This ongoing communication provides excessive, yet legally required, opportunities for the batterer to continue his abuse.79  

Studies have shown “that women and children are at [a higher risk] for violence during the process of and after separation.”80 Also, as alluded to previously, continuing “exposure of the children to their parents’ bad relationship . . . may promote intergenerational messages condoning abuse.”81 Although proponents of joint custody would argue that it “enhance[s] gender equity and fathers’ involvement with their children, . . . researchers have found that children living under joint custody orders in high conflict families are more emotionally troubled and behaviorally disturbed than those in sole custody.”82 “[I]n families where . . . imbalances of power, financial inequities, coercion, and intimidation” exist, “psychological researchers do not recommend an award of joint custody.”83 Not coincidentally, “all [of these] characteristics are found in violent families.”84 Furthermore, in those states with a statutory presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the child, the battered woman risks losing custody if it appears to the court that she does not want to share the child with her batterer.85 Therefore, if the battered woman does not want to risk losing custody of her children to her abuser, she is forced to remain in a dangerous situation because of the ongoing contact between she and her abuser legally required for joint custody.86 Awarding joint or sole custody to the abuser in domestic violence cases is contrary to the best interest of the child standard. Inclusion of domestic violence as just one factor to be considered in custody decisions is not adequate to protect victims of domestic violence. Both children and mothers are harmed by continued exposure to an abuser. Missouri lawmakers should enact a statutory presumption that extended contact with an abuser is not in the best interest of children. B. Missouri’s “Friendly Parent Provision” Allows Abusers to Use Their Children to Control the Abused Spouse and Continue to Put the Victim and the Children in Danger Missouri has one of “[t]en state child custody statutes that includes a public policy statement concerning a parent’s abilities to allow an open, loving, and frequent relationship between the child and the other parent”; and it is one of 18 states that includes such provisions in their list of factors that a court is required to consider when determining the best interest of the child.”87 The ABA’s Center on Children and the Law proposed that state legislatures amend such laws because friendly parent provisions are unsuitable in domestic violence cases.88 These provisions “punish the victims of violence for their seeming lack of cooperation,” allow the abuser to use the “children to control the abused spouse,” and continue to put the victim and the children in danger.89 For example, after a victim leaves, an abusive partner becomes even more angered, intensifying and increasing the use of violence to regain control. Statistics show that “[s]eparated/divorced women are 14 times more likely than married women to report having been a victim of violence by their spouse or ex-spouse.”90 Furthermore, “65 percent of intimate homicide victims physically separated from the perpetrator prior to their death.”91 In fact, experts say that the most dangerous life-threatening time for victims is just after they leave or attempt to leave their abusers. Martha Mahoney calls this violence “separation assault.”92 “At the moment of separation or attempted separation . . . the batterer’s quest for control often becomes most acutely violent and potentially lethal.”93 An abuser may make threats against the victim and/or the children in order to regain control. A victim will often return to the abuser for fear that he will harm the children or disappear with them.94 Mandatory visitation – or worse, granting the abuser custody – creates a forum for this continued abuse. Statutory “friendly parent provisions” give abusers additional power in court, as well.

A friendly parent provision in the law exacerbates the situation because it gives the batterer additional power: a woman who does not want contact between her children and the battering spouse cannot so inform the court, lest she seems uncooperative or “unfriendly.” Moreover, this provision presents an apparent conflict with statutory provisions that require courts to consider spouse abuse in their child custody decisions. If, in a state with a friendly parent provision, a woman claims she has been abused but cannot prove the existence of abuse to the satisfaction of the judge, the mere fact that she has made the allegation will make her appear less cooperative. Therefore, given her unfriendly attitude, she is even less likely to get custody.95  

In general, friendly parent provisions such as Missouri’s seem to serve a worthy purpose. However, they achieve bad results in child custody cases involving domestic violence. The best interests of a child are not served when the child is subjected to continued abuse after the victim leaves her batterer. Safety concerns should take precedence over the policy goal of frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with both parents after a separation or divorce in such cases. Therefore, Missouri’s legislature should amend the state’s friendly parent provision, excluding its use in cases involving domestic violence. C. Current Missouri Law Allows the Abuser’s Right to Visitation to Outweigh the Child’s Exposure to Danger or the Threat of Harm In Missouri, a noncustodial parent of the child in a divorce case “is entitled to reasonable visitation rights unless the court finds, after a hearing, that visitation would endanger the child’s physical health or impair his [or her] emotional development.”96 However, this statutory provision conflicts with the public policy of Missouri that children maintain continuous, frequent, and meaningful contact with both parents after a divorce or separation. Researchers state that “a child’s need for protection from psychological and physical harm [should be balanced] with the child’s need to maintain a positive, supportive relationship with both parents.”97 When visitation is granted, the court should strictly limit the visitation under the best interests of the child standard. Under this article’s proposed statutory presumption, the court would presume it is not in the best interest of children to have extended or unsupervised contact with an abuser. Courts should place limits on visitation “[b]ecause of the potential for abuse inherent in transferring children between parents.”98 Visitation can create a forum for continued abuse against victims of domestic violence. Courts should also place limits on visitation because exposure to domestic violence has traumatic short- and long-term effects on children.99 Unrestricted visitation has the potential to continue this exposure to negative role-models and possibly intensify such short- and long-term effects. State statutes should mandate that the visitation agreement specify the hours and days of visitation and prohibit contact at other times, condition visitation upon participation in batterer’s counseling, use a third party to transport the children and serve as an intermediary for the parents, require the abuser to provide notice of a day or more before exercising visitation rights, and provide that visitation may be denied if the abuser is more than 30 minutes late.100 Missouri should enact such statutory limits on visitation to prevent continued abuse after the victim leaves her abuser. Such limits are compatible with the proposed enactment of a statutory presumption that, in child custody cases involving domestic violence, the best interest of children are not served to have extended or unsupervised contact with the abuser. V. Conclusion Missouri should enact a statutory presumption that, in child custody cases involving domestic violence, extended or unsupervised contact with the abuser is not in the best interest of children. Compatible with this presumption, courts should not award joint or sole custody to the abuser in domestic violence cases, because to do so is contrary to the best interest of the child standard. Furthermore, the Missouri legislature should amend the state’s friendly parent provision to exclude its use in cases involving domestic violence. Safety concerns should take precedence over the policy goal of frequent, continued, and meaningful contact with both parents after a separation or divorce because the purpose of the policy is overturned in cases involving domestic violence. Finally, courts should place limits on visitation with the noncustodial parent because visitation can create a forum for continued abuse against victims of domestic violence. Endnotes 1 Ms. Brown is an associate at the law firm of Harris, McCausland & Schmitt, P.C. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in May of 1998 and received her J.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law in May of 2001. During her third year of law school, Ms. Brown worked in the school’s Domestic Violence Clinic, where she aided victims of domestic violence in obtaining protective orders against their abusers. 2 Patricia K. Susi, The Forgotten Victims of Domestic Violence, 54 J. MoBar 231, 231-32 (1998). 3 Naomi R. Cahn, Civil Images of Battered Women: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody Decisions, 44 Vand. L. Rev. 1041, 1058-59 (1991). 4 The Family Violence Project of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Family Violence in Child Custody Statutes: An Analysis of State Codes and Legal Practice, 29 Fam. L.Q. 197, 201 (1995). 5 Hon. Elliot Wilk, Domestic Violence and Child Custody, 82 PLI/NY 291, 293 (2000). 6 Cahn at 1058-59. 7 Id. at 1059. 8 Id. at 1060. 9 Id. at 1043. 10 Id. 11 Id. 12 Family Violence Project, at 197. 13 Id. 14 Cahn, at 1060. 15 Id. at 1061. 16 Id. at 1043-44. 17 Id. at 1044. 18 Id. 19 Family Violence Project, at 199. These states include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. 20 Id. at 199-200. These states are Oregon and Minnesota. 21 National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Model Code on Domestic Violence s 402, at 33 (1994). 22 Family Violence Project, at 200-201. These states include: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, and Wyoming. 23 Id. at 208. These states include: Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. 24 Id. These states are Delaware, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and North Dakota. 25 Id. These states are Florida, Idaho, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. 26 Id. These states are Louisiana, Oklahoma, and North Dakota. 27 Id. These states are Delaware and Florida. 28 Id. at 221. 29 Section 452.375.2, RSMo 2000. 30 Section 452.375.2(6), RSMo 2000. 31 Family Violence Project, at 201; § 452.375.4, RSMo Supp 1998. These states include: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Texas. 32 Id. These states include: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. 33 Id. 34 Section 452.400.1, RSMo 2000. 35 Id. 36 Id. 37 Gant v. Gant, 923 S.W.2d 527, 531 (Mo. App. W.D. 1996). 38 Id. at 528-29. 39 Id. 40 Id. 41 Id. 42 Id. at 529. 43 Id. 44 Id. at 529-30. 45 Id. at 530. 46 Id. 47 Id. 48 Id. at 531. 49 Couch v. Couch, 978 S.W.2d 505, 510 (Mo. App. W.D. 1998). 50 Id. at 507. 51 Id. 52 Id. 53 Id. at 510-11. 54 Id. at 510; Hamilton v. Hamilton, 886 S.W.2d 711, 715 (Mo. App. W.D. 1994). 55 Id. 56 Hennessey v. Smith-Hennessey, 997 S.W.2d 538, 542 (Mo. App. W.D. 1999). 57 Id. at 541. 58 Id. 59 Id. 60 Id. 61 Id. at 540. 62 Id. at 542. 63 Cahn, at 1096-97. 64 Id. at 1071. 65 Id. at 1072. 66 Id. at 1082. 67 Susi, at 231. 68 Id. 69 Id. 70 Cahn, at 1057. 71 Id. 72 Susi, at 231. 73 Id. 74 Id. at 232. 75 Id. 76 Id. 77 Id. 78 Cahn, at 1056. 79 Id. at 1064. 80 Family Violence Project, at 224. 81 Cahn, at 1068. 82 Family Violence Project, at 200. 83 Id. 84 Id. 85 Cahn, at 1064. 86 Id. 87 Family Violence Project, at 201; § 452.375.4, RSMo. 88 Family Violence Project, at 202. 89 Id. 90 Elizabeth LaFlamme, Missouri’s Parenting Plan Requirement: Is It In The Best Interests Of Domestic Violence Victims?, 56 J. MoBar 30 (2000). 91 Id. 92 Martha R. Mahoney, Legal Images of Battered Women: Redefining the Issue of Separation, 90 Mich. L. Rev. 1 at 65 (1991). 93 Id. 94 Id. 95 Cahn, at 1068. 96 Section 452.400(1), RSMo 2000. 97 Family Violence Project, at 205. 98 Cahn, at 1092. 99 Susi, at 231. 100 House of Ruth Domestic Violence Legal Clinic, Domestic Violence Training Manual, 64 (1989).

JOURNAL OF THE MISSOURI BAR
Volume 57 – No. 6 – November-December 2001


3 thoughts on “Missouri Family Court

  1. It is. The same is happening in too many states. The only thing that’s helping is parents finding other parents who are victims of the same court vendors to investigate and work with legislators for change and justice.The justice is the hardest part because what’s done is done. We just have to do the best we can with what we’ve got and have faith.

  2. MO law pertaining joint physical and legal custody needs to be amended and lawmakers need to consider the adverse effects shared custody has on the emotional, social and psychological development of these kiddos. It’s an injustice to rule that children be subject to such behavior. If a parent has the ability to provide all facets of care for a child and the child has diagnosis’ and can adequately attest their wants to the court then the court should rule on behalf of the child regardless of the customary and standard contact w/the substandard parent because all the court is doing is enforcing that parent to continue to impose upon that child and inflict more pain, harm, disappointment and emotional problems upon the child and for what? Family court attorneys and GALS are running a racket and nobody cares. Jefferson County Missouri is notorious for this mindset and the presiding judge Lisa Page fails to acknowledge that prior offenders, track records of these behaviors are character flaws and are inbedded within these parents morale fiber and are risking the child’s chance at a happy childhood to take a benefit of the doubt and show that parent regard when that parent has proven to show nothing but disregard for their own child. A complete injustice. Taking away thousands of hard earned dollars that could remain in that child’s college fund while the battles and modifications carry on until worst case…the child is a mess, has a depleted college fund because the parent with the regard will use every penny available to fight what they know is best and Jefferson County family lawyers and judges collect and collect. Pathetic. Disgusting.

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