Children and Youth Exposed to Interparental Violence and the Courts
Children and youth exposed to interparental violence may come into contact with the court system in a variety of ways. Consider the following examples. In the first situation, parents with a long history of father-perpetrated domestic violence decide to separate and divorce, and a contested custody battle ensues in family court. Although child physical abuse has not been an issue in this particular family, the mother is concerned that her husband's rage will be displaced from her onto their children, or will erupt when he becomes involved in another intimate relationship or both. Moreover, she and her attorney argue that exposing children to interparental violence represents psychological maltreatment and indicates poor parenting skills. The child is then subjected to multiple interviews and a psychological evaluation in a process to determine the best custody arrangement for this family. In a second situation, an adolescent who has grown up in a high-conflict, violent family since childhood has now come into contact with the juvenile court for aggressive behavior toward his teachers and peers, substancerelated crimes, and truancy. The court will make a decision about communitybased treatment, residential placement, or possibly referral to a secure corrections facility, depending on the nature and frequency of the offenses.